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Charle3 Josselvn. 

2. I 


Le bonheur n'est pas ctosi aisie : il est trks- 
difficile de le trouver en nous, et impossible 
de le trouver ailleurs. 

Cham fort. 

First Edition, March, 1890 ; Second, November, 
1890; Third, August, 1891 ; Fourth, October, 1892; 
Fifth, October, 1895 ; Sixth, October, 1897. 




Hpborismen 3ur Xebenswetsbeit 

Vitam inrpendere vero. — Jvvevau 








i3 97 

& CO., Limited 

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3ji {VsuWhUv\ 


Schopenhauer is one of the few philosophers who 
can be generally understood without a commentary. 
All his theories claim to be drawn direct from the facts, 
to be suggested by observation, and to interpret the 
world as it is ; and whatever view he takes, he is con- 
stant in his appeal to the experience of common life. 
This characteristic endows his style with a freshness 
and vigour which would be difficult to match in the 
philosophical wiiting of any country, and impossible 
in that of Germany. If it were asked whether there 
were any circumstances, apart from heredity, to which 
he owed his mental habit, the answer might be found 
in the abnormal character of his early education, his 
acquaintance with the world rather than with books, 
the extensive travels of his boyhood, his ardent pur- 
suit of knowledge for its own sake and without regard 
to the emoluments and endowments of learning. He 
was trained in realities even more than in ideas ; and 
hence he is original, forcible, clear, an enemy of all 
philosophic indefiniteness and obscurity ; so that it 
may well be said of him, in the words of a writer in 
the " Revue Contemporaine," ce n'est pas unphilosophe 



comme les autres, c'est un philosophe qui a vu le 

It is not my purpose, nor would it be possible with- 
in the limits of a prefatory note, to attempt an account 
of Schopenhauer's philosophy, to indicate its sources, 
or to suggest or rebut the objections which may be 
taken to it. M. Bibot, in his excellent little book, * 
has done all that is necessary in this direction. But 
the essays here presented need a word of explanation. 
It should be observed, and Schopenhauer himself is at 
pains to point out, that his system is like a citadel 
with a hundred gates : at whatever point you take it 
up, wherever you make your entrance, you are on the 
road to the centre. In this respect his writings 
resemble a series of essays composed in support of a 
single thesis ; a circumstance which led him to insist, 
more emphatically even than most philosophers, that 
for a proper understanding of his system it was 
necessary to read every line he had written. Perhaps 
it would be more correct to describe Die Welt als Wille 
und Vorstellung as his main thesis, and his other 
treatises as merely corollary to it. The essays in these 
volumes form part of the corollary ; they are taken 
from a collection published towards the close of 
Schopenhauer's life, and by him entitled Parerga und 
Paralipomena, as being in the nature of surplusage 
and illustrative of his main position. They are by fai 
* La Philosophie de Schopenhauer, par Th. Ribot. 


the most popular of bis works, and since their first 
publication in 1851 they have done much to build up his 
fame. Written so as to be intelligible enough in them- 
selves, the tendency of many of them is towards the 
fundamental idea on which his system is based. It may , 
therefore be convenient to summarise that idea in a ' 
couple of sentences ; more especially as Schopenhauer 
sometimes writes as if his advice had been followed 
and his readers were acquainted with the whole of his 

All philosophy is in some sense the endeavour to 

find a inifying principle, to discover the most general 

conception underlying the whole field of nature and 

of knowledge. By one of those bold generalisations 

which occasionally mark a real advance in science, 

Schopenhauer conceived this unifying principle, this 

underlying unity, to consist in something analogous 

r to that vill which self-consciousness reveals to us. 

Will is, according to him, the fundamental reality of 

I the world the thing-in-itself ; and its objectivation is I 

what is presented in phenomena. The struggle of the 

will to realise itself evolves the organism, which in its 

turn evokes intelligence as the servant of the will. 

And in practical life the antagonism between the will 

and the in.ellect arises from the fact that the former 

is the metaphysical substance, the latter something 

accidental ind secondary. And further, will is desire, ,- 

that is to say, need of something ; hence need and 


pain are what is positive in the world, and the only 
possible happiness is a negation, a renunciation of the 
will to live. 

It is instructive to note, as M. Bibot points out, 
that in finding the origin of all things, not in intelli- 
gence, as some of his predecessors in philosophy had 
done, but in will, or the force of nature, from which 
all phenomena have developed, Schopenhauer was 
anticipating something of the scientific spirit of the 
nineteenth century. To this it may be added that in 
combating the method of Fichte and Hegel, who 
spun a system out of abstract ideas, and in discarding 
it for one based on observation and experience, 
Schopenhauer can be said to have brought down 
philosophy from heaven to earth. 

In Schopenhauer's view the various forms of 
Religion are no less a product of human ingenuity 
than Art or Science. He holds, in effect, that all 
religions take their rise in the desire to explain the 
world ; and that, in regard to truth and error, they 
differ, in the main, not by preaching monotheism, 
polytheism or pantheism, but in so far as they 
recognise pessimism or optimism as the tru I descrip- 
tion of life. Hence any religion which lookecjupon the 
world as being radically evil appealed to hip. as con- 
taining an indestructible element of truth I have 
endeavoured to present his view of two of the great 
religions of the world in the extract whfch comes 


in the third volume, and to which I have given the 
title of The Christian System. The tenor of it is 
to show that, however little he may have been in 
sympathy with the supernatural element, he owed 
much to the moral doctrines of Christianity and 
of Buddhism, between which he traced great resem- 

Of Schopenhauer, as of many another writer, it may 
be said that he has been misunderstood and depreciated 
just in the degree in which he is thought to be new ; 
and that, in treating of the Conduct of Life, he is, in 
reality, valuable only in so far as he brings old truths 
to remembrance. His name used to arouse, and in 
certain quarters still arouses, a vague sense of alarm ; 
as though he had come to subvert all the rules of 
right thinking and all the principles of good conduct, 
rather than to proclaim once again and give a new 
meaning to truths with which the world has long 
been familiar. Of his philosophy in its more tech- 
nical aspects, as matter upon which enough, perhaps ; 
has been written, no account need be taken here, 
except as it affects the form in which he embodies 
these truths or supplies the fresh light in which he 
sees them. For whatever claims to originality his 
metaphysical theory may possess, the chief interest to 
be found in his views of life is an affair of form 
rather than of substance ; and he stands in a sphere 
of his own, not because he sets new problems or opens 


up undiscovered truths, but in the manner in which 
he approaches what has been already revealed. 

He is not on that account less important ; for the 
great mass of men at all times requires to have old 
truths imparted as if they were new — formulated, as 
it were, directly for them as individuals, and of 
special application to their own circumstances in life 
A discussion of human happiness and the way to 
obtain it is never either unnecessary or uncalled for, 
if one looks to the extent to which the lives of most 
men fall short of even a poor ideal, or, again, to the 
difficulty of reaching any definite and secure conclu- 
sion. For to such a momentous inquiry as this, the 
vast majority of mankind gives nothing more than a 
nominal consideration, accepting the current belief, 
whatever it may be, on authority, and taking as little 
thought of the grounds on which it rests as a man 
walking takes of the motion of the earth. But for 
those who are not indifferent — for those whose desire 
to fathom the mystery of existence gives them the 
right to be called thinking beings — it is just here, in 
regard to the conclusion to be reached, that a diffi- 
culty arises, a difficulty affecting the conduct of life : 
for while the great facts of existence are alike for all, 
they are variously appreciated, and conclusions differ, 
chiefly from innate diversity of temperament in those 
who draw them. It is innate temperament, acting on 
a view of the facts necessarily incomplete, that has 


inspired so many different teachers. The tendencies 
of a man's own mind — the Idols of the Cave before 
which he bows — interpret the facts in accordance 
with his own nature : he elaborates a system containing, 
perhaps, a grain of truth, to which the whole of life is 
then made to conform ; the facts purporting to be the 
foundation of the theory, and the theory in its turn 
giving its own colour to the facts. 

Nor is this error, the manipulation of facts to suit a 
theory, avoided in the views of life which are pre- 
sented by Schopenhauer. It is true that he aimed 
especially at freeing himself from the trammels of 
previous systems ; but he was caught in those of his 
own. His natural desire was to resist the common 
appeal to anything extramundane, anything outside 
or beyond life, as the basis of either hope or fear. 
He tried to look at life as it is ; but the metaphysical 
theory on which his whole philosophy rests made it 
necessary for him, as he thought, to regard it as an 
unmixed evil. He calls our present existence an in- 
finitesimal moment between two eternities, the past 
and the future, a moment, like the life of Plato's 
" Dwellers in the Cave," filled with the pursuit of 
shadows ; where everything is relative, phenomenal, 
illusory, and man is bound in the servitude of ignor- 
ance, struggle and need, in the endless round of effort 
and failure. If you confine yourself, says Schopen- 
hauer, only to some of its small details, life may 

viii translator's preface. 


indeed appear to be a comedy, because of the one or 
two bright spots of happy circumstance to be found 
in it here and there ; but when you reach a higher 
point of view and a broader outlook, these soon 
become invisible, and Life, seen from the distance 
which brings out the true proportion of all its parts, 
is revealed as a tragedy — a long record of struggle 
/ and pain, with the death of the hero as the final, 
certainty. How then, he asks, can a man make the 
best of his brief hour under the hard conditions of 
his destiny ? What is the true Wisdom of Life ? 

Schopenhauer has no pre-conceived divine plan to 
vindicate ; no religious or moral enthusiasm to give a 
roseate hue to some far-off event, obliging us in the 
end to think that all things work together for good. 
Let poets and theologians give play to imagination ! 
he, at any rate, will profess no knowledge of any- 
thing beyond our ken. If our existence does not 
entirely fail of its aim, it must, he says, be suffering ; 
for this is what meets us everywhere in the world, 
and it is absurd to look upon it as the result of 
chance. Still, in the face of all this suffering, and in 
spite of the fact that the uncertainty of life destroys 
its value as an end in itself, every man's natural 
desire is to preserve his existence ; jso that life is a 
blind, unreasoning force, hurrying us we know not 
whither. From his high metaphysical standpoint, 
Schopenhauer is ready to admit that there are many 


things in life which give a short satisfaction and 
blind us for the moment to the realities of existence, — 
pleasures as they may be called, in so far as they are 
a mode of relief; but that pleasure is not positive in 
its nature nor anything more than the negation of 
suffering, is proved by the fact that, if pleasures 
come in abundance, pain soon returns in the form of 
satiety ; so that the sense of illusion is all that has- 
been gained. Hence, the most a man can achieve in* 
the way of welfare is a measure of relief from this 
suffering ; and if people were prudent, it is at this 
they would aim, instead of trying to secure a happi- 
ness which always flies from them. 

It is a trite saying that happiness is a delusion, a 
chimaera, the fata morgana of the heart ; but here is a 
writer who will bring our whole conduct into line 
with it, as a matter of practice; making pain the 
positive groundwork of life, and a desire to escape it 
the spur of all effort. While most of those who treat 
of the conduct of life come at last to the conclusion, 
more or less vaguely expressed, that religion and 
morality form a positive source of true happiness, 
Schopenhauer does not professedly take this view; 
though it is quite true that the practical outcome of 
his remarks tends, as will be seen, to support it. 
His method is different : he does not direct the 
imagination to anything outside this present life as 
making it worth while to live at all ; his object is to 


state the facts of existence as they immediately 
appear, and to draw conclusions as to what a wise 
man will do in the face of them. 

In the practical outcome of Schopenhauer's ethics — 
the end and aim of those maxims of conduct which 
he recommends, there is nothing that is not sub- 
stantially akin to theories of life which, in different 
forms, the greater part of mankind is presumed to 
hold in reverence. It is the premises rather than the 
conclusion of his argument which interest us as some- 
thing new. The whole world, he says, with all its 
phenomena of change, growth and development, is 
ultimately the manifestation of Will — Wille und 
Vorstellung — a blind force conscious of itself only 
when it reaches the stage of intellect. And life is a 
constant self-assertion of this will, a long desire which J 
is never fulfilled. Disillusion inevitably follows 
upon attainment, because the will, the thing-in- 
itself — in philosophical language, the noumenon — 
always remains as the permanent element ; and with 
this persistent exercise of its claim, it can never be 
satisfied. So life is essentially suffering ; and the only \L 
remedy for it is the freedom of the intellect from the 
servitude imposed by its master, the will. 

The happiness a man can attain, is thus, in Schopen- 
hauer's view, negative only ; but how is it to be 
acquired ? Some temporary relief, he says, may be 
obtained through the medium of Art; for in the 

translator's preface. xi 

apprehension of Art we are raised out of our bondage^ 
contemplating objects of thought as they are in them- 
selves, apart from their relations to our own ephemeral 
existence, and free from any taint of the will. This 
contemplation of pure thought is destroyed when Art 
is degraded from its lofty sphere, and made an instru- 
ment in the bondage of the will. How few of those who 
feel that the pleasure of Art transcends all others could 
give such a striking explanation of their feeling ! 

But the highest ethical duty, and consequently the 
supreme endeavour after happiness, is to withdraw 
from the struggle of life, and so obtain release from 
the misery which that struggle imposes upon all, even 
upon those who are for the moment successful. For 
as will is the inmost kernel of everything, so it is 
identical under all its manifestations ; and through 
the mirror of the world a man may arrive at the 
knowledge of himself. The recognition of the 
identity of our own nature with that of others is the 
beginning and foundation of all true morality. For 
when a man clearly perceives this solidarity of the 
will, there is aroused in him a feeling of sympathy 
,. which is the main-spring of ethical conduct. This 
feeling of sympathy must, in any true moral system, 
prevent our obtaining success at the price of others' 
loss. Justice, in this theory, comes to be a noble, 
enlightened self-interest; it will forbid our doing 
wrong to onr fellow-man, because, in injuring him, we 

xii translator's preface. 

are injuring ourselves — our own nature, which is 
identical with his. On the other hand, the recogni- 
tion of this identity of the will must lead to com- 
miseration — a feeling of sympathy with our fellow- 
sufferers-— to acts of kindness and benevolence, to the 
manifestation of what Kant, in the Metaphysic of 
Ethics, calls the only absolute good, the good will. In 
Schopenhauer's phraseology, the human will, in other 
words, epo)<s, the love of life, is in itself the root of all 
evil, and goodness lies in renouncing it. Theoreti- 
cally, his ethical doctrine is the extreme of socialism, 
in a large sense ; a recognition of the inner identity 
and equal claims, of all men with ourselves ; a 
recognition issuing in dydirrj, universal benevolence, 
and a stifling of particular desires. 

It may come as a surprise to those who affect to 
hold Schopenhauer in abhorrence, without, perhaps, 
really knowing the nature of his views, that, in this 
theory of the essential evil of the human will — 'ipus, 
the common selfish idea of life — he is reflecting and 
indeed probably borrowing what he describes as the 
fundamental tenet of Christian theology, that the 
whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain, 1 stand- 
ing in need of redemption. Though Schopenhauer 
was no friend to Christian theology in its ordinary 
tendencies, he was very much in sympathy with some 
of the doctrines which have been connected with it. 
1 Romans viii. , 22. 


In his opinion the foremost truth which Christianity 
proclaimed to the world lay in its recognition of 
pessimism, its view that the world was essentially 
corrupt, and that the devil was its prince or ruler. 1 
It would be out of place here to inquire into the exact 
meaning of this statement, or to determine the pre- 
cise form of compensation provided for the ills of life 
under any scheme of doctrine which passes for Chris- 
tian •, and even if it were in place, the task would be 
an extremely difficult one ; for probably no system of 
belief has ever undergone, at various periods, more 
radical changes than Christianity. But whatever 
prospect of happiness it may have held out, at an 
early date of its history, it soon came to teach that 
the necessary preparation for happiness, as a positive 
spiritual state, is renunciation, resignation, a looking 
away from external life to the inner life of the soul — 
a kingdom not of this world. So far, at least, as con- 
cerns its view of the world itself, and the main lesson 
and duty which life teaches, there is nothing in the 
theory of pessimism which does not accord with that 
religion which is looked up to as the guide of life over 
a great part of the civilised world. 

What Schopenhauer does is to attempt a meta- 
physical explanation of the evil of life, without any 
reference to anything outside it. Philosophy, he 
urges, should be cosmology, not theology ; an explana- 
1 John xii. , 31. l 


tion of the world, not a scheme of divine knowledge : 
it should leave the gods alone — to use an ancient 
phrase — and claim to be left alone in return. Scho- 
penhauer was not concerned, as the apostles and 
fathers of the Church were concerned, to formulate a 
scheme by which the ills of this life should be 
remedied in another — an appeal to the poor and 
oppressed, conveyed often in a material form, as, for 
instance, in the story of Dives and Lazarus. In his 
theory of life as the self-assertion of will, he endeav- 
ours to account for the sin, misery and iniquity of the 
world, and to point to the way of escape by the denial 
of the will to live. 

Though Schopenhauer's views of life have this 
much in common with certain aspects of Christian 
doctrine, they are in decided antagonism with another 
theory which, though, comparatively speaking, the 
birth of yesterday, has already been dignified by the 
name of a religion, and has, no doubt, a certain 
number of followers. It is the theory which looks 
upon the life of mankind as a continual progress 
towards a state of perfection, and humanity in its 
nobler tendencies as itself worthy of worship. To 
those who embrace this theory, it will seem that 
because Schopenhauer does not hesitate to declare the 
evil in the life of mankind to be far in excess of the 
good, and M as long as the human will remains 
what it is, any radical change for the better to be im- 


possible, he is therefore outside the pale of civilisation, 
an alien from the commonwealth of ordered know- 
ledge and progress. But it has yet to be seen how 
the religion of humanity will fare, either as a theory 
of conduct or as a guide of life. 

If there is any one doctrine more than another 
which has distinguished Christianity wherever it has 
been a living force among its adherents, it is the 
doctrine of renunciation; the same doctrine which, 
in a different shape and with other surroundings, 
forms the spirit of Buddhism. With those great 
religions of the world which mankind has hitherto 
professed to revere as the most ennobling of all in- 
fluences, Schopenhauer's theories, not perhaps in their 
details, but in the principle which informs them, are, 
as we have seen, in close alliance. According to 
him, too, renunciation, in the same sense, is the 
truest wisdom of life, from the higher ethical stand- 
point. His heroes are the Christian ascetics of the 
Middle Age, and the followers of Buddha who turn away 
from the Sansara to the Nirvana. But our modern 
habits of thought are different. We look askance at 
the doctrines, and we have no great enthusiasm for 
the heroes. The system which is in vogue amongst 
us just now objects to the identification of nature 
with evil, and, in fact, abandons ethical dualism alto- 
gether. yAnd if nature is not evil, where, it will be 
asked, is the necessity or the benefit of renunciation 


— a question which may even come to be generally- 
raised, in a not very distant future, on behalf of some 
new conception of Christianity. And from another 
point of view, let it be most fully and frankly 
admitted that renunciation is incompatible with 
ordinary practice, with the rules of life as we are 
compelled to formulate them ; and that, to the vast 
majority, the doctrine seems little but a mockery, a 
hopelessly unworkable plan, inapplicable to the con- 
ditions under which men have to exist. 

In spite of the fact that he is theoretically in 
sympathy with truths which lie at the foundation of 
certain widely revered systems, the world has not yet 
accepted Schopenhauer for what he proclaimed him* 
self to be, a great teacher- and probably for the reason 
that hope is not an element in his wisdom of life, and 
that he attenuates love into something that is not a 
real, living force — a shadowy recognition of the 
identity of the will. For men are disinclined to 
welcome a theory which neither flatters their present 
position nor holds out any prospect of better things 
to come. Optimism — the belief that in the end 
everything will be for the best — is the natural creed 
of mankind ; and a writer who of set purpose seeks 
to undermine it by an appeal to facts is regarded as 
one who tries to rob humanity of its rights. How 
seldom an appeal to the facts within our reach is 
really made ! Whether the evil of life actually out- 

translator's preface. xvii 

weighs the good ; or, if we should look for better 
things, what is the possibility or the nature of a 
Future Life, either for ourselves as individuals, or as 
part of some great whole, or, again, as contributing to 
a coming state of perfection? — such inquiries claim an 
amount of attention which the mass of men every- 
where is unwilling to give. But, in any case, whether 
it is a vague assent to current beliefs, or a blind reliance 
on a baseless certainty, or an impartial attempt to put 
away what is false, — hope remains as the deepest 
foundation of every faith in a happy future. 

But it should be observed that this looking to the 
future as a complement for the present is dictated 
mainly by the desire to remedy existing ills ; and 
that the great hold which religion has on mankind, as 
an incentive to present happiness, is the promise it 
makes of coming perfection. Hope for the future is 
a tacit admission of evil in the present ; for if a man 
is completely happy in this life, and looks upon 
happiness as the prevailing order, he will not think 
over much of another. So a discussion of the nature of 
happiness is not thought complete if it takes account 
only of our present life, and unless it connects what 
we are now and what we do here with what we may 
be hereafter. Schopenhauer's theory does not profess 
to do this : it promises no positive good to the_ia- 
dividual, at most, only relief ; he breaks the idol of 
the world, and sets up nothing in its place ; and like 


many another iconoclast, he has long been condemned 
by those whose temples he has desecrated. If there 
are optimistic theories of life, it is not life itself, he 
would argue, which gives colour to them ; it is rather 
the reflection of some great final cause which humanity 
has created as the last hope of its redemption : — 

Heaven but the vision of fulfilled desire, 
And hell the shadow from a soul 071 fire, 

Cast on the darkness into which ourselves, 
So late emerged from, shall so soon expire. l 

Still, hope, it may be said, is not knowledge, nor a 
real answer to any question ; at most, a makeshift, a 
moral support for intellectual weakness. The truth 
is that, as theories, both optimism and pessimism are 
failures, because they are extreme views where only 
a very partial judgment is possible. And in view of 
the great uncertainty of all answers, most of those 
who do not accept a stereotyped system leave the 
question alone, as being either of little interest, or of 
no bearing on the welfare of their lives, which are 
commonly satisfied with low aims ; tacitly ridiculing 
those who demand an answer as the most pressing 
affair of existence. But the fact that the final pro- 
blems of the world are still open, makes in favour of 
an honest attempt to think them out, in spite of all 
previous failure or still existing difficulty ; and how- 

1 Omar Khayyam ; translated by E. Fitzgerald. 


ever old these problems may be, the endeavour tc 
solve them is one which it is always worth while to 
encourage afresh. For the individual advantages 
which attend an effort to find the true path accrue 
quite apart from any success in reaching the goal; 
and even though the height we strive to climb be 
inaccessible, we can still see and understand more 
than those who never leave the plain. The sphere, it 
is true, is enormous. It is the world and life and 
destiny as a whole ; and our mental vision is so ill- 
adapted to a range of this extent that to aim at form- 
ing a complete scheme is to attempt the impossible. 
It must be recognised that the data are insufficient for 
large views, and that we ought not to go beyond the 
facts we have, the facts of ordinary life, interpreted 
by the common experience of every day. These form 
our only material. The views we take must of 
necessity be fragmentary ; they can be little but 
apergus, rough guesses at the undiscovered, or else of 
the same nature as all our possessions in the way of 
knowledge — small tracts of solid land reclaimed from 
the mysterious ocean of the unknown. 

But if we do not admit Schopenhauer to be a great 
teacher, because he is out of sympathy with the 
highest aspirations of mankind, and too ready to 
dogmatise from partial views, he is a very suggestive 
writer, and eminently readable. His style is brilliant, 
animated, forcible, pungent; although it is also dis- 


cursive, irresponsible, and with a tendency to super- 
ficial generalisation. He brings i n the most unexpected 
topics without any very sure sense of their relative 
place ; everything, in fact, seems to be fair game, when 
he has taken up his pen. His irony is noteworthy ; 
for it extends beyond mere isolated sentences, and 
sometimes applies to whole passages, which must be 
read cum grano satis. And if he has grave faults as 
well as excellences of literary treatment, he is at least 
always witty and amusing, and that, too, in dealing 
with subjects — as here, for instance, with the Conduct of 
Life — on which many others have been at once severe 
and dull. It is easy to complain that though he is 
witty and amusing, he is often at the same time bitter 
and ill-natured. This is in some measure the un- 
pleasant side of his uncompromising devotion to truth, 
his resolute eagerness to dispel illusion at any cost — 
those defects of his qualities which were intensified by 
a solitary and, until his last years, unappreciated life. 
He was naturally more disposed to coerce than to 
flatter the world into accepting his views ; he was 
above all things un esprit fort, and at times brutal 
in the use of his strength. If it should be urged that, 
however great his literary qualities, he is not worth 
reading because he takes a narrow view of life and is 
blind to some of its greatest blessings, it will be well 
to remember the profound truth of that line which a 
friend inscribed on his earliest biography : Si non 

TRANSLATOR'S preface, xxi 

errasset fecerat ille minus, 1 a truth which is seldom 
without application, whatever be the form of human 
effort. Schopenhauer cannot be neglected because he 
takes an unpleasant view of existence, for it is a view 
which must present itself, at some time, to every 
thoughtful person. To be outraged by Schopenhauer 
means to be ignorant of many of the facts of life. 

In the volumes containing his Aphorismen zur 
Lebensweisheit, Schopenhauer abandons the high meta- 
physical standpoint, and discusses, with the same zest 
and appreciation as in fact marked his enjoyment of 
them, some of the pleasures which a wise man will 
seek to obtain, — health, moderate possessions, intel- 
lectual riches. And when, as in this little work, he 
comes to speak of the wisdom of life as the practical 
art of living, the pessimist view of human destiny is 
obtruded as little as possible. His remarks profess to 
be the result of a compromise — an attempt to judge 
life by the common standards. He is content to 
call these witty and instructive pages a series of 
aphorisms; thereby indicating that he makes no claim 
to expound a complete theory of conduct. It will 
doubtless occur to any intelligent reader that his ob- 
servations are but fragmentary thoughts on various 
phases of life; and, in reality, mere aphorisms — in the 
old, Greek sense of the word — pithy distinctions, 
definitions of facts, a marking-ofT, as it were, of the 
1 Slightly altered from Martial. Epigram : I. xxii. 

xxh translator's preface. 

true from the false in some of our ordinary notions of 
life and prosperity. Here there is little that is not in 
complete harmony with precepts to which the world 
has long been accustomed ; and in this respect, also, 
Schopenhauer offers a suggestive comparison rather 
than a contrast with most writers on happiness. 

The philosopher in his study is conscious that the 
world is never likely to embrace his higher metaphy- 
sical or ethical standpoint, and annihilate the will to 
live ; nor did Schopenhauer himself do so except so far 
as, in common with most serious students of life, he 
avoided the ordinary aims of mankind. The theory 
which recommended universal benevolence as the 
highest ethical duty, came, in personal practice, to 
mean a formal standing-aloof — the ne plus ultra of 
individualism. Wisdom, as the ordinary art of living, 
he took to be a compromise. We are here not by 
any choice of our own ; and while we strive to make 
the best of it, we must not let ourselves be deceived. 
If we want to be happy, he says, it will not do to 
cherish illusions. Schopenhauer would have found 
nothing admirable in the conclusion at which the late 
M. Edmond Scherer, for instance, arrived. L'art de 
vivre, he wrote in his preface to Amiel's Journal, c'esl 
de se faire une raison, de souscrire au compromis, de se 
preter aux fictions. Schopenhauer conceives his mis- 
sion to be, rather, to dispel illusion, to tear the mask 
from life ; — a violent operation, not always productive 


of good. Some illusion, he urges, may profitably bo 
dispelled by recognising that no amount of external 
aid will make up for inward deficiency ; and that if a 
man has not got the elements of happiness in himself, 
all the pride, pleasure, beauty and interest of the 
world will not give it to him. Success in life, as 
gauged by the ordinary material standard, means to 
place faith wholly in externals as the source of happi- 
ness, to assert and emphasize the common will to live, 
in a word, to be vulgar. He protests against this 
search for happiness — something subjective — in the 
world of our surroundings, or anywhere but in a 
man's own self; a protest the sincerity of which 
might well be imitated by some professed advocates 
of spiritual claims. 

It would be interesting to place his utterances or 
this point side by side with those of a distinguished 
interpreter of nature in this country, who has recently 
attracted thousands of readers by describing The - '(JA-ocJ~ 
Pleasures of Life ; in other words, the blessings which 
the world holds out to all who can enjoy them — 
health, books, friends, travel, education, art. On the 
common ground of their regard for these pleasures 
there is no disagreement between the optimist and the 
pessimist. But a characteristic difference of view 
may be found in the application of a rule of life 
which Schopenhauer seems never to tire of repeating ; 
namely, that happiness consists for the most part in 

xxiv translator's preface. 

what a man is in himself, and that the pleasure he 
derives from these blessings will depend entirely upon 
the extent to which his personality really allows him 
to appreciate them. This is a rule which runs some 
risk of being overlooked when a writer tries to 
dazzle the mind's eye by describing all the possible 
sources of pleasure in the world of our surroundings ; 
but Sir John Lubbock, in common with every one 
who attempts a fundamental answer to the question of 
happiness, cannot afford to overlook it. The truth of 
the rule is perhaps taken for granted in his account of 
life's pleasures ; but it is significant that it is only 
when he comes to speak of life's troubles that he 
freely admits the force of it. Happiness, he says, in 
this latter connection, depends much more on what is 
within than without us. Yet a rigid application of this 
truth might perhaps discount the effect of those 
pleasures with which the world is said to abound. 
That happiness as well as unhappiness depends mainly 
upon what is within, is more clearly recognised in the 
case of trouble ; for when troubles come upon a man, 
they influence him, as a rule, much more deeply than 
pleasures. How few, even amongst the millions to 
whom these blessings are open — health, books, travel, 
art — really find any true or permanent happiness in 
them ! 

While Schopenhauer's view of the pleasures of life 
may be elucidated by comparing it with that of a 


popular writer like Sir John Lubbock, and by con- 
trasting the appeals they severally make to the outer 
and the inner world as a source of happiness, 
Schopenhauer's view of life itself will stand out more 
clearly if we remember the opinion so boldly ex- 
pressed by the same English writer. If we resolutely 
look, observes Sir John Lubbock, I do not say at 
the bright side of things, but at things as they really 
are ; if we avail ourselves of the manifold blessings 
which surround us; we cannot but feel that life is 
indeed a glorious inheritance. 1 There is a splendid 
excess of optimism about this statement which well 
fits it to show up the darker picture drawn by the 
German philosopher. 

Finally, it should be remembered that though 
Schopenhauer's picture of the world is gloomy and 
sombre, there is nothing weak or unmanly in his 
attitude. If a happy existence, he says, — not merely 
an existence free from pain — is denied us, we can at 
least be heroes and face life with courage : das 
hochste was der Mensch erlangen kann ist ein heroischer 
Lebenslauf A noble character will never complain at 
misfortune; for if a man looks round him at other 
manifestations of that which is his own inner nature, 
the will, he finds sorrows happening to his fellow-men 
harder to bear than any that have come upon himself. 
And the ideal of nobility is to deserve the praise 
1 The Pleasures of Life. Part I., p. 5. 


which Hamlet — in Shakespeare's Tragedy of Pessim- 
ism — gave to his friend : 

Thou hast been 
As one, in suffering all, that suffers nothing. 

But perhaps Schopenhauer's theory carries with it 
its owd correction. He describes existence as a more 
or less violent oscillation between pain and boredom. 
If this were really the sum of life, and we had to 
reason from such a partial view, it is obvious that 
happiness would lie in action ; and that life would be 
so constituted as to supply two natural and inevitable 
incentives to action, and thus to contain in itself the 
very conditions of happiness. Life itself reveals our 
destiny. It is not the struggle which produces misery, 
it is the mistaken aims and the low ideals — was uns 
alle bdndigt, das Gemeine ! That life is an evil is a 
deduction, and possibly a mistaken deduction, from 
his metaphysical creed. Whether his scheme of things 
is correct or not — and it shares the common fate of all 
metaphysical systems in being unverifiable, and to 
that extent unprofitable — he will in the last resort 
have made good his claim to be read by his insight 
into the varied needs of human life. It may be that 
a future age will consign his metaphysics to the 
philosophical lumber-room ; but he is a literary artist 
as well as a philosopher, and he can make a bid for 
fame in either capacity. T. B. S. 

December, 1889. 




Introduction . . . . 



Division of the Subject . 



Personality, or what a Man is . 

. 15 



OR WHAT A Man has . 

. 48 


Position, or a Man's Place in the Estimation 

of Others — 


i. Reputation 

• 59 


2. Pride .... 

. 63 


3. Rank .... 

. 72 


4. Honour ... 

• 73 


5. Farns .... 

. 116 


In these pages I shall speak of The Wisdom of Life in 
the common meaning of the term, as the art, namely, 
of ordering our lives so as to obtain the greatest 
possible amount of pleasure and success ; an art the 
theory of which may be called Eudcemonology, for it 
teaches us how to lead a happy existence. Such an 
existence might perhaps be defined as one which, 
looked at from a purely objective point of view, or, 
rather, after cool and mature reflection — for the 
question necessarily involves subjective considerations, 
— would be decidedly preferable to non-existence ; 
implying that we should cling to it for its own sake, 
and not merely from the fear of death ; and further, 
that we should never like it to come to an end. 

Now whether human life corresponds, or could 
possibly correspond, to this conception of existence, is 
a question to which, as is well-known, my philoso- 
phical system returns a negative answer. On the 
eudsemonistic hypothesis, however, the question must 
be answered in the affirmative ; and I have shown, in 
the second volume of my chief work (ch. 49), that 
this hypothesis is based upon a fundamental mistake. 
Accordingly, in elaborating the scheme of a happy 
existence, I have had to make a complete surrender 
of the higher metaphysical and ethical standpoint tc 


which my own theories lead ; and everything I shall 
say here will to some extent rest upon a compromise ; 
in so far, that is, as I take the common standpoint of 
every day, and embrace the error which is at the 
bottom of it. My remarks, therefore, will possess 
only a qualified value, for the very word eudosmono- 
logy is a euphemism. Further, I make no claims to 
completeness ; partly because the subject is inex- 
haustible, and partly because I should otherwise have 
to say over again what has been already said by 

The only book composed, as far as I remember, 
with a like purpose to that which animates this 
collection of aphorisms, is Cardan's Be utilitate ex 
ttdversis capiendo,, which is well worth reading, and 
may be used to supplement the present work. 
Aristotle, it is true, has a few words on eudsemono- 
logy in the fifth chapter of the first book of his 
Rhetoric; but what he says does not come to very 
much. As compilation is not my business, I have 
made no use of these predecessors; more especially 
because in the process of compiling individuality of 
view is lost, and individuality of view is the kernel 
of works of this kind. In general, indeed, the wise 
in all ages have always said the same thing, and the 
fools, who at all times form the immense majority, 
have in their way, too, acted alike, and done j ust the 
opposite; and so it will continue. For, as Voltaire 
says, we shall leave this world as foolish and as 
wicked as we found it on our arrival. 




Aristotle 1 divides the blessings of life iDto three 
classes — those which come to us from without, those 
of the soul, and those of the body. Keeping nothing 
of this division but the number, I observe that the 
fundamental differences in human lot may be reduced 
to three distinct classes : 

(1) What a man is : that is to say, personality, in 
the widest sense of the word ; under which are in- 
cluded health, strength, beauty, temperament, moral 
character, intelligence and education. 

(2) What a man has : that is, property and posses- 
sions of every kind. 

(3) How a man stands in the estimation of others : 
by which is to be understood, as everybody knows, 
what a man is in the eyes of his fellow-men, or, more 
strictly, the light in which they regard him. This is 
shown by their opinion of him ; and their opinion is in 
its turn manifested by the honour in which he is held, 
and by his rank and reputation. 

1 Eth. Nichom., I. 8. 


The differences which come under the first head are 
those which Nature herself has set between man and 
man ; and from this fact alone we may at once infer 
that they influence the happiness or unhappiness of 
mankind in a much more vital and radical way than 
those contained under the two following heads, which 
are merely the effect of human arrangements. Com- 
pared with genuine personal advantages, such as a 
great mind or a great heart, all the privileges of rank 
or birth, even of royal birth, are but as kings on the 
stage to kings in real life. The same thing was said 
long ago by , Metrodorus, the earliest disciple of 
Epicurus, who wrote as the title of one of his chapters, 
The happiness we receive from ourselves- is greater 
than that which we obtain from our surroundings. 1 
And it is an obvious fact, which cannot be called in 
question, that the principal element in a man's well- 
being, — indeed, in the whole tenor of his existence, — is 
what he is made of, his inner constitution. For this 
is the immediate source of that inward satisfaction or 
dissatisfaction resulting from the sum total of his 
sensations, desires and thoughts ; whilst his surround- 
ings, on the other hand, exert only a mediate or 
indirect influence upon him. This is why the same 
external events or circumstances affect no two people 
alike ; even with perfectly similar surroundings every 
one lives in a w T orld of his own. For a man has 
immediate apprehension only of his own ideas, feelings 
and volitions ; the outer world can influence him only 
in so far as it brings these to life. The world in 
which a man lives shapes itself chiefly by the way in 
1 Cf. Clemens Alex. Strom. II., 21. 


which he looks at it, and so it proves different to 
different men ; to one it is barren, dull, and super- 
ficial ; to another rich, interesting, and full of meaning. 
On hearing of the interesting events which have hap- 
pened in the course of a man's experience, many people 
will wish that similar things had happened in their lives 
too, completely forgetting that they should be envious 
- rather of the mental aptitude which lent those events 
the significance they possess when he describes them. 
To a man of genius they were interesting adventures ; 
but to the dull perceptions of an ordinary individual 
they would have been stale, everyday occurrences. 
This is in the highest degree the case with many of 
Goethe's and Byron's poems, which are obviously 
founded upon actual facts; where it is open to a 
foolish reader to envy the poet because so many 
delightful things happened to him, instead of envying 
that mighty power of phantasy which was capable of 
turning a fairly common experience into something 
so great and beautiful. 

In the same way, a person of melancholy tempera- 
ment will make a scene in a tragedy out of what 
appears to the sanguine man only in the light of an 
interesting conflict, and to a phlegmatic soul as some- 
thing without any meaning. This all rests upon 
the fact that every event, in order to be realised and 
appreciated, requires the co-operation of two factors, 
namely, a subject and an object ; although these are 
as closely and necessarily connected as oxygen and 
hydrogen in water. When therefore the objective or 
external factor in an experience is actually the same, 
but the subjective or personal appreciation of it varies, 


the event is just as much a different one in the eyes of 
different persons as if the objective factors had not 
been alike ; for to a blunt intelligence the fairest and 
best object in the world presents only a poor reality 
and is therefore only poorly appreciated, — like a fine 
landscape in dull weather, or in the reflection of a bad 
camera obscura. In plain language, every man is 
pent up within the limits of his own consciousness, 
and cannot directly get beyond those limits any more 
than he can get beyond his own skin ; so external aid 
is not of much use to him. On the stage, one man is 
a prince, another a minister, a third a servant or a 
soldier or a general, and so on, — mere external differ- 
ences : the inner reality, the kernel of all these appear- 
ances is the same — a poor player, with all the anxieties 
of his lot. In life it is just the same. Differences of 
rank and wealth give every man his part to play, but 
this by no means implies a difference of inward happi- 
ness and pleasure ; here, too, there is the same being 
in all — a poor mortal, with his hardships and troubles. 
Though these may, indeed, in every case proceed from 
dissimilar causes, they are in their essential nature 
much the same in all their forms, with degrees of 
intensity which vary, no doubt, but in no wise corre- 
spond to the part a man has to play, or the presence or 
absence of position and wealth. Since everything 
which exists or happens for a man exists only in his 
consciousness and happens for it alone, the most essen- 
tial thing for a man is the constitution of this con- 
sciousness, which is in most cases far more important 
than the circumstances which go to form its contents. 
All the pride and pleasure of the world, mirrored in 


the dull consciousness of a fool, is poor indeed com* 
pared with the imagination of Cervantes writing his 
Don Quixote in a miserable prison. The objective half 
of life and reality is in the hand of fate, and accord- 
ingly takes various forms in different cases : the 
subjective half is ourself, and in essentials it always 
remains the same. 

Hence the life of every man is stamped with the 
same character throughout, however much his exter- 
nal circumstances may alter ; it is like a series of 
variations on a single theme. No one can get beyond 
his own individuality. An animal, under whatever 
circumstances it is placed, remains within the narrow 
limits to which nature has irrevocably consigned it; so 
that our endeavours to make a pet happy must always 
keep within the compass of its nature, and be restricted 
to what it can feel. So it is with man ; the measure 
of the happiness he can attain is determined before- 
hand by his individuality. More especially is this the 
case with the mental powers, which fix once for all his 
capacity for the higher kinds of pleasure.; If these powers 
are small, no efforts from without, nothing that his 
fellow-men or that fortune can do for him, will suffice to 
raise him above the ordinary degree of human happi- 
ness and pleasure, half animal though it be. His only 
resources are his sensual appetite, — a cosy and cheerful 
family life at the most, — low company and vulgar 
pastime ; even education, on the whole, can avail 
little, if anything, for the enlargement of his horizon. 
For the highest, most varied and lasting pleasures are 
those of the mind, however much our youth may 
deceive us on this point ; and the pleasures of tho 


mind turn chiefly on the powers of the mind. It is 
clear, then, that our happiness depends in a great 
degree upon what we are, upon our individuality, 
whilst lot or destiny is generally taken to mean only 
what we have, or our refutation. Our lot, in this 
sense, may improve ; but we do not ask much of it if 
we are inwardly rich : on the other hand, a fool 
remains a fool, a dull blockhead, to his last hour, even 
though he were surrounded by houris in paradise. 
This is why Goethe, in the West-ostlicher Divan, says 
that every man, whether he occupy a low position in 
life, or emerges as its victor, testifies to personality as 
the greatest factor in happiness : — 

Voile und Knecht und Ueberwinder 

Sie gestehen, zu jeder Zeit, 
Hb'chstes Gluclc der Erdeiikinder 

Sei nur die Personlichkeit. 

Common experience shows that the subjective 
element in life is incomparably more important for 
our happiness and pleasure than the objective, from 
such sayings as Hunger is the best sauce, and Youth 
and Age cannot live together, up to the life of the 
Genius and the Saint. Health outweighs all other 
blessings so much that one may really say that a 
healthy beggar is happier than an ailing king. A 
quiet and cheerful temperament, happy in the enjoy- 
ment of a perfectly sound physique, an intellect clear, 
lively, penetrating and seeing things as they are, a 
moderate and gentle will, and therefore a good con- 
science — these are privileges which no rank or wealth 
can make up for or replace. For what a man is in 


himself, what accompanies him when he is alone, what 
no one can give or take away, is obviously more 
essential to him than everything he has in the way of 
possessions, or even what he may be in the e} 7 es of 
the world. An intellectual man in complete solitude 
has excellent entertainment in his own thoughts and 
fancies, whilst no amount or diversity of social 
pleasure, theatres, excursions and amusements, can 
ward oif boredom from a dullard. A good, temperate, 
gentle character can be happy in needy circumstances, 
whilst a covetous, envious and malicious man, even if 
he be the richest in the world, goes miserable. Nay 
more ; to one who has the constant delight of a special 
individuality, with a high degree of intellect, most of 
the pleasures which are run after by mankind are 
perfectly superfluous ; they are even a trouble 
and a burden. And so Horace says of himself, that, 
however many are deprived of the fancy-goods 
of life, there is one at least who can live without 
them : — 

Gemmas, marmor, ebur, Tyrrhena sigilla, tabellas, 

Argentum, vestes Ga&ulo murice tinctas 

Sunt qui non habeant, est qui non curat habere ; 

and when Socrates saw various articles of luxury 
spread out for sale, he exclaimed : How much there is 
in the world that I do not want. 

So the first and most essential element in our life's 
happiness is what we are, — our personality, if for no 
other reason than that it is a constant factor coming 
into play under all circumstances. Besides, unlike the 
blessings which are described under the other two 


heads, it is not the sport of destiny and cannot be 
wrested from us ;— and, so far, it is endowed with an 
absolute value in contrast to the merely relative 
worth of the other two. The consequence of this is 
that it is much more difficult than people commonly 
suppose to get a hold on a man from without. But 
here the all-powerful agent, Time, comes in and claims 
its rights, and before its influence physical and 
mental advantages gradually waste away. Moral 
character alone remains inaccessible to it. In view of 
the destructive effect of time, it seems, indeed, as if 
the blessings named under the other two heads, of 
which time cannot directly rob us, were superior to 
those of the first. Another advantage might be 
claimed for them, namely, that being in their very 
nature objective and external, they are attainable, 
and every one is presented with the possibility, at 
least, of coming into possession of them ; whilst what is 
subjective is not open to us to acquire, but making its 
entry by a kind of divine right, it remains for life, 
immutable, inalienable, an inexorable doom. Let 
me quote those lines in which Goethe describes how an 
unalterable destiny is assigned to every man at the hour 
of his birth, so that he can develope only in the lines 
laid down for him, as it were, by the conjunctions of 
the stars ; and how the Sibyl and the prophets declare 
that himself a man can never escape, nor any power 
of time avail to change the path on which his life 
is cast : — 

Wie an dem Tag, der dich der Welt verliehe?i, 
Die Sonne stand zum Grusse der Planeten, 
Bist alsobald void fort und fort gediehen, 


Nack dem Gesetz, wonach du angetreten. 
So musst du sein, dir Icawnst du nicht entjliehen, 
So sagten schon Sibyllen und Propheten ; 
TJnd keine Zeit und keine Macht zerstiiclielt 
Geprdgte Form, die lebend sich enturiekelt. 

The only thing that stands in our power to achieve, 
is to make the most advantageous use possible of the 
» personal qualities we possess, and accordingly to 
follow such pursuits only as will call them into play, 
to strive after the kind of perfection of which they 
admit and to avoid every other ; consequently, to choose 
the position, occupation and manner of life which are 
most suitable for their development. 

Imagine a man endowed with herculean strength 
who is compelled by circumstances to follow a seden- 
tary occupation, some minute exquisite work of the 
hands, for example, or to engage in study and mental 
labour demanding quite other powers, and just those 
which he has not got, — compelled, that is, to leave 
unused the powers in which he is pre-eminently 
strong ; a man placed like this will never feel happy all 
his life through. Even more miserable will be the lot 
of the man with intellectual powers of a very high 
order, who has to leave them undeveloped and un- 
employed, in the pursuit of a calling which does not 
require them, some bodily labour, perhaps, for which 
his strength is insufficient. Still, in a case of this 
kind, it should be our care, especially in youth, to 
avoid the precipice of presumption, and not ascribe to 
ourselves a superfluity of power which is not there. 

Since the blessings described under the first head 
decidedly outweigh those contained under the other 


two, *t> va manifestly a wiser course to aim at the 
maintenance of our health and the cultivation of our 
faculties, than at the amassing of wealth; but this 
must not be mistaken as meaning that we should 
neglect to acquire an adequate supply of the necessaries 
of life. Wealth, in the strict sense of the word, that 
is, great superfluity, can do little for our happiness ; 
and many rich people feel unhappy just because they 
are 'without any true mental culture or knowledge, 
and consequently have no objective interests which 
would qualify them for intellectual occupations. For 
beyond the satisfaction of some real and natural 
necessities, all that the possession of wealth can achieve 
has a very small influence upon our happiness, in the 
proper sense of the word ; indeed, wealth rather dis- 
turbs it, because the preservation of property entails 
a great many unavoidable anxieties. And still men 
are a thousand times more intent on becoming rich 
than on acquiring culture, though it is quite certain 
that what a man is contributes much more to his 
happiness than what he has. So you may see many 
a man, as industrious as an ant, ceaselessly occupied 
from morning to night in the endeavour to increase 
his heap of gold. Beyond the narrow horizon of 
means to this end, he knows nothing ; his mind is a 
blank, and consequently unsusceptible to any other 
influence. The highest pleasures, those of the in- 
tellect, are to him inaccessible, and he tries in vain 
to replace them by the fleeting pleasures of sense in 
which he indulges, lasting but a brief hour and at 
tremendous cost. And if he is lucky, his struggles 
result in his having a really .great pile of gold, which 


he leaves to his heir, either to make it still larger, or 
to squander it in extravagance. A life like this, 
though pursued with a sense of earnestness and an 
air of importance, is just as silly as many another 
which has a fool's cap for its symbol. 

What a man has in himself is, then, the chief 
element in his happiness. Because this is, as a rule, 
so very little, most of those who are placed beyond 
the struggle with penury, feel at bottom quite as un- 
happy as those who are still engaged in it. Their 
minds are vacant, their imagination dull, their spirits 
poor, and so they are driven to the company of those 
like them — for siwdlis simili gaudet — where they 
make common pursuit of pastime and entertainment, 
consisting for the most part in sensual pleasure, 
amusement of every kind, and finally, in excels 
and libertinism. A young man of rich family enter,-* 
upon life with a large patrimony, and often runs 
through it in an incredibly short space of time, in 
vicious extravagance ; and why ? Simply because, 
here too, the mind is empty and void, and so the man 
is bored with existence. He was sent forth into 
the world outwardly rich but inwardly poor, and his 
vain endeavour was to make his external wealth 
compensate for his inner poverty, by trying to obtain 
everything from without, like an old maii who seeks 
to strengthen himself as King David or Marechal de 
Ketz tried to do. And so in the end one who is in- 
wardly poor comes to be also poor outwardly. 

I need not insist upon the importance of the other 
two kinds of blessings which make up the happiness 
of human life ; now-a-days the value of possessing 


them is too well known to require advertisement. 
The third class, it is true, may seem, compared with 
the second, of a very ethereal character, as it consists 
only of other people's opinions. Still everyone has to 
strive for reputation, that is to say, a good name. Kank, 
on the other hand, should be aspired to only by those 
who serve the State, and fame by very few indeed. 
In any case, reputation is looked upon as a priceless 
treasure, and fame as the most precious of all the 
blessings a man can attain, — the Golden Fleece, as it 
were, of the elect : whilst only fools will prefer rank 
to property. The second and third classes, moreover, 
are reciprocally cause and effect ; so far that is, as 
Petronius' maxim, habes habeberis, is true ; and con- 
versely, the favour of others, in all its forms, of teu 
puts us in the way of ^retting what we want 




We have already seen, in general, that what a man ia 
contributes much more to his happiness than what he 
has, or how he is regarded by others. What a man is, 
and so what he has in his own person, is always the 
chief thing to consider ; for his individuality accom- 
panies him always and everywhere, and gives its 
colour to all his experiences. In every kind of enjoy- 
ment, for instance, the pleasure depends principally 
upon the man himself. Every one admits this in 
regard to physical, and how much truer it is of intel- 
lectual, pleasure. When we use that English expres- 
sion, " to enjoy oneself," we are employing a very 
striking and appropriate phrase ; for observe — one 
says, not " he enjoys Paris," but " he enjoys himself in 
Paris." To a man possessed of an ill-conditioned 
individuality, all pleasure is like delicate wine in a 
mouth made bitter with gall. Therefore, in the bless- 
ings as well as in the ills of life, less depends upon 
what befalls us than upon the way in which it is met, 
that is, upon the kind and degree of our general 
susceptibility. What a man is and has in himself, — in 
a word, personality, with all it entails, is the only im- 
mediate and direct factor in his happiness and welfare. 
All else is mediate and indirect, and its influence czn 
be neutralised and frustrated ; but the influence of 
personality never. This is why the envy which per- 
sonal qualities excite is the most implacable of all, — as 
it is also the most carefulLy dissembled. 



Further, the constitution of our consciousness is the 
ever present and lasting element in all we do or suffer; 
our individuality is persistently at work, more or less, 
at every moment of our life : all other influences are 
temporal, incidental, fleeting, and subject to every 
kind of chance and change. This is why Aristotle 
says : It is not wealth but character that lasts. 1 And 
just for the same reason we can more easily bear a 
misfortune which comes to us entirely from without, 
than one which we have drawn upon ourselves ; for 
fortune may always change, but not character. 
Therefore, subjective blessings, — a noble nature, a 
capable head, a joyful temperament, bright spirits, 
a well-constituted, perfectly sound physique, in a 
word, mens sana in corpore sano, are the first and 
most important elements in happiness ; so that we 
should be more intent on promoting and preserving 
such qualities than on the possession of external wealth 
and external honour. 

And of all these, the one which makes us the most 
directly happy is a genial flow of good spirits ; for 
this excellent quality is its own immediate reward. 
The man who is cheerful and merry has always a good 
reason for being so, — the fact, namely, that he is so. 
There is nothing which, like this quality, can so com- 
pletely replace the loss of every other blessing. If 
you know anyone who is young, handsome, rich and 
esteemed, and you want to know, further, if he is 
happy, ask, Is he cheerful and genial ? — and if he is, 

1 Etli. Eud., vii. 2. 37 : — rj yap cfivcns /3e/3ouov, ov rot 


what does it matter whether he is young or old, 
straight or humpbacked, poor or rich ? — he is happy. 
In my early days I once opened an old book and 
found these words : If you laugh a great deal, you are 
happy ; if you cry a great deal, you are unhappy ; — 
a very simple remark, no doubt ; but just because it 
is so simple I have never been able to forget it, 
even though it is in the last degree a truism. So if 
cheerfulness knocks at our door, we should throw it 
wide open, for it never comes inopportunely. Instead 
of that, we often make scruples about letting it in. 
We want to be quite sure that we have every reason 
to be contented ; then we are afraid that cheerfulness of 
spirits may interfere with serious reflections or weighty 
cares. Cheerfulness is a direct and immediate gain, 
— the very coin, as it were, of happiness, and not, like all 
else, merely a cheque upon the bank ; for it alone 
makes us immediately happy in the present moment, 
and that is the highest blessing for beings like us, whose 
existence is but an infinitesimal moment between two 
eternities. To secure and promote this feeling of 
cheerfulness should be the supreme aim of all our 
endeavours after happiness. 

Now it is certain that nothing contributes so little 
to cheerfulness as riches, or so much, as health. Is it 
not in the lower classes, the so-called working classes, 
more especially those of them who live in the 
country, that we see cheerful and contented faces? 
and is it not amongst the rich, the upper classes, that 
we find faces full of ill-humour and vexation ? Con- 
sequently we should try as much as possible to main- 
tain a high degree of health ; for cheerfulness is the 



very flower of it. I need hardly say what one must 
do to be healthy — avoid every kind of excess, all 
violent and unpleasant emotion, all mental overstrain, 
take daily exercise in the open air, cold baths and 
such like hygienic measures. For without a proper 
amount of daily exercise no one can remain healthy ; 
all the processes of life demand exercise for the due 
performance of their functions, exercise not only of 
the parts more immediately concerned, but also of the 
whole body. For, as Aristotle rightly says, Life is 
nnovement ; it is its very essence. Ceaseless and rapid 
motion goes on in every part of the organism. The 
heart, with its complicated double systole and diastole, 
beats strongly and untiringly; with twenty-eight 
beats it has to drive the whole of the blood through 
arteries, veins and capillaries ; the lungs pump like a 
steam-engine, without intermission ; the intestines are 
always in peristaltic action ; the glands are all con- 
stantly absorbing and secreting ; even the brain has a 
double motion of its own, with every beat of the 
pulse and every breath we draw. When people can 
get no exercise at all, as is the case with the countless 
numbers who are condemned to a sedentary life, there 
is a glaring and fatal disproportion between outward 
inactivity and inner tumult. For this ceaseless in- 
ternal motion requires some external counterpart, and 
the want of it produces effects like those of emotion 
which we are obliged to suppress. Even trees must 
be shaken by the wind, if they are to thrive. The 
rule which finds its application here may be most 
briefly expressed in Latin : omnis motus, quo celerior, 
eo magis motus, 


How much our happiness depends upon our spirits, 
and these again upon our state of health, may be 
seen by comparing the influence which the same 
external circumstances or events have upon us when 
we are well and strong with the effect which they 
have when we are depressed and troubled with ill- 
health. It is not what things are objectively and in 
themselves, but what they are for us, in our way of 
looking at them, that makes us happy or the reverse. 
As Epictetus says, Men are not influenced by things 
but by their thoughts about things. And, in general, 
nine-tenths of our happiness depends upon health 
alone. With health, everything is a source of plea- 
sure ; without it, nothing else, whatever it may be, 
is enjoyable ; even the other personal blessings, 
— a great mind, a happy temperament — are degraded 
and dwarfed for want of it. So it is really with 
good reason that, when two people meet, the first 
thing they do is to inquire after each other's health, 
and to express the hope that it is good ; for good 
health is by far the most important element in human 
happiness. It follows from all this that the greatest 
of follies is to sacrifice health for any other kind 
of happiness, whatever it may be, for gain, advance- 
ment, learning or fame, let alone, then, for fleeting 
sensual pleasures. Everything else should rather be 
postponed to it. 

But however much health may contribute to that 
flow of good spirits which is so essential to our 
happiness, good spirits do not entirely depend upon 
health ; for a man may be perfectly sound in his 
physique and still possess a melancholy temperament 



and be generally given up to sad thoughts. The 
ultimate cause of this is undoubtedly to be found in 
innate, &nd therefore unalterable, physical constitution, 
especially in the more or less normal relation of a 
man's sensitiveness to his muscular and vital ener<£y. 
J ** r Abnormal sensitiveness produces inequality of spirits, a 
predominating melancholy, with periodical fits of un- 
I \ restrained liveliness. A genius is one whose nervous 
^ ^ poweror' sensitiveness is largely in excess ; as Aris- 
totle * has very correctly observed, Men distinguished 
in philosophy, politics, poetry or art, appear to be all 
of a melancholy temperament This is doubtless the 
passage which Cicero has in his mind when he says, 
as he often does, Aristoteles ait omnes ingeniosos 
melancholicos esse. 2 Shakespeare has very neatly 
expressed this radical and innate diversity of tempera- 
ment in those lines in The Merchant of Venice : 

Nature has framed strange fellows in her time ; 
Some that will evermore peep through their eyes, 
And laugh, like parrots at a hag-piper ; 
And others of such vinegar aspect, 
Tliat they'll not show their teeth in way of smile, 
Tlwugh Nestor swear the jest be laughable. 

This is the difference which Plato draws between 
cvkoXos and Bvo-koXos — the man of easy, and the man 
of difficult disposition — in proof of which he refers 
to the varying degrees of susceptibility which differ- 
ent people show to pleasurable and painful impres- 
sions; so that one man will laugh at what makes another 
despair. As a rule, the stronger the susceptibility to un- 
pleasant impressions, the weaker is the susceptibility to 
1 Probl. xxx, ep. 1. 2 Tusc. i., 33. 


pleasant ones, and vice versa. If it is equally possible 
for an event to turn out well or ill, the Svo-koAos will 
be annoyed or grieved if the issue is unfavourable, 
and will not rejoice, should it be happy. On the 
other hand, the evKoAo? will neither worry nor fret over 
an unfavourable issue, but rejoice if it turns out well. 
If the one is successful in nine out of ten undertak- 
ings, he will not be pleased, but rather annoyed that 
one has miscarried ; whilst the other, if only a single 
one succeeds, will manage to find consolation in the 
fact and remain cheerful. But here is another 
instance of the truth, that hardly any evil is entirely 
without its compensation ; for the misfortunes and 
sufferings which the Svo-koXol, that is, people of 
gloomy and anxious character, have to overcome, are, 
on the whole, more imaginary and therefore less real 
than those which befall the gay and careless ; for a 
man who paints everything black, who constantly 
fears the worst and takes measures accordingly, will 
not be disappointed so often in this world, as one who 
always looks upon the bright side of things. And 
when a morbid affection of the nerves, or a derange- 
ment of the digestive organs, plays into the hand of 
an innate tendency to gloom, this tendency may 
reach such a height that permanent discomfort pro- 
duces a weariness of life. So arises an inclination to 
suicide, which even the most trivial unpleasantness 
may actually bring about ; nay, when the tendency 
attains its worst form, it may be occasioned by 
nothing in particular, but a man may resolve to put 
an end to his existence, simply because he is per- 
manently unhappy, and then coolly and firmly carry 


out his determination ; as may be seen by the way in 
which the sufferer, when placed under supervision, 
as he usually is, eagerly waits to seize the first 
unguarded moment, when, without a shudder, with- 
out a struggle or recoil, he may use the now natural 
and welcome means of effecting his release. 1 Even 
the healthiest, perhaps even the most cheerful man, 
may resolve upon death under certain circumstances ; 
when, for instance, his sufferings, or his fears of some 
inevitable misfortune, reach such a pitch as to out- 
weigh the terrors of death. The only difference lies 
in the degree of suffering necessary to bring about the 
fatal act, a degree which will be high in the case of a 
cheerful, and low in that of a gloomy man. The 
greater the melancholy, the lower need the degree be ; 
in the end, it may even sink to zero. But if a man 
is cheerful, and his spirits are supported by good 
health, it requires a high degree of suffering to make 
him lay hands upon himself. There are countless 
steps in the scale between the two extremes of suicide, 
the suicide which springs merely from a morbid 
intensification of innate gloom, and the suicide of the 
healthy and cheerful man, who has entirely objective 
grounds for putting an end to his existence. 

Beauty is partly an affair of health. It may be 
reckoned as a personal advantage ; though it does not, 
properly speaking, contribute directly to our happi- 
ness. It does so indirectly, by impressing other 
people ; and it is no unimportant advantage, even in 
man. Beauty is an open letter of recommendation, 

1 For a detailed description of this condition of mind cf. 
Esquirol Des maladies mentales. 


predisposing the heart to favour the person who 
presents it. As is well said in those lines of Homer, 
the gift of beauty is not lightly to be thrown away, 
that glorious gift which none can bestow save the 
gods alone — 

ovtol aTTofSX-qT Icrrt deujv ZpiKvSta 8(opa, 

ocrcra Ktv avrot Scocriv, Ikwv S'ovk av ris eAoiro. 1 

The most general survey shows us that the two foes 
of human happiness are pain and boredom. We may 
go further, and say that in the degree in which we 
are fortunate enough to get away from the one, we 
approach the other. Life presents, in fact, a more or 
less violent oscillation between the two. The reason 
of this is that each of these two poles stands in a 
double antagonism to the other, external or objective, 
and inner or subjective. Needy surroundings and 
poverty produce pain ; while, if a man is more than 
well off, he is bored. Accordingly, while the lower 
classes are engaged in a ceaseless struggle with need, 
in other words, with pain, the upper carry on a con- 
stant and often desperate battle with boredom. 2 The 
inner or subjective antagonism arises from the fact 
that, in the individual, susceptibility to pain varies 
inversely with susceptibility to boredom, because sus- 
ceptibility is directly proportionate to mental power. 
Let me explain. A dull mind is, as a rule associated 
with dull sensibilities, nerves which no stimulus can 

i Iliad 3, 65. 

2 And the extremes meet ; for the lowest state of civilization, 
a nomad or wandering life, finds its counterpart in the highest, 
v where everyone is at times a tourist. The earlier stage was a 
case of necessity ; the latter is a remedy for boredom. 



affect, a temperament, in short, which does not feel 
pain or anxiety very much, however great or terrible 
it may be. Now, intellectual dulness is at the 
bottom of that vacuity of soul which is stamped on 
so many faces, a state of mind which betrays itself by 
v a constant and lively attention to all the trivial cir- 
cumstances in the external world. This is the true 
i source of boredom — a continual panting after excite- 
ment, in order to have a pretext for giving the mind 
and spirits something to occupy them. The kind 
of things people choose for this purpose shows that 
they are not very particular, as witness the miserable 
pastimes they have recourse to, and their ideas of 
social pleasure and conversation ; or again, the number 
of people w T ho gossip on the doorstep or gape out of 
the window. It is mainly because of this inner 
vacuity of soul that people go in quest of society, 
diversion, amusement, luxury of every sort, which 
lead many to extravagance and misery. Nothing is 
so good a protection against such misery as inward 
wealth, the wealth of the mind, because the greater it 
grows, the less room it leaves for boredom. The in- 
exhaustible activity of thought! finding ever new 
material to work upon in the multifarious phenomena 
of self and nature, and able and ready to form new 
combinations of them, — there you have something 
that invigorates the mind, and apart from moments of 
relaxation, sets it far above the reach of boredom. 

But, on the other hand, this high degree of intelli- 
gence is rooted in a high degree of susceptibility, 
greater strength of will, greater passionateness ; and 
from the union of these qualities comes an increased 


capacity for emotion, an enhanced sensibility to all 
mental and even bodily pain, greater impatience of 
obstacles, greater resentment of interruption ; — all of 
which tendencies are augmented by the power of the 
imagination, the vivid character of the whole range 
of thought, including what is disagreeable. This 
applies, in varying degrees, to every step in the long 
scale of mental power, from the veriest dunce to the 
greatest genius that ever lived. Therefore the nearer 
anj^one is, either from a subjective or from an objec- 
tive point of view, to one of these sources of suffering 
in human life, the farther he is from the other. And 
so a man's natural bent will lead him to make his 
objective world conform to his subjective as much as 
possible; that is to say, he will take the greatest 
measures against that form of suffering to which he is 
most liable. The wise man will, above all, strive after 
freedom from pain and annoyance, quiet and leisure, 
consequently a tranquil, modest life, with as few en- 
counters as may be ; and so, after a little experience 
of his so-called fellow-men, he will elect to live in 
retirement, or even, if he is a man of great intellect, 
in solitude. For the more a man has in himself, the 
less he will want from other people, — the less, indeed, 
other people can be to him. This is why a high 
degree of intellect tends to make a man unsocial. 
True, if quality of intellect could be made up for by 
quantity, it might be worth while to live even in the 
great world ; but, unfortunately, a hundred fools 
together will not make one wise man. 

But the individual who stands at the other end of 
the scale is no sooner free from the pangs of need 


than he endeavours to get pastime and society at any 
cost, taking up with the first person he meets, and 
avoiding nothing so much as himself. For in solitude, 
where every one is thrown upon his own resources, 
what a man has in himself comes to light : the fool in 
fine raiment groans under the burden of his miserable 
personality, a burden which he can never throw off, 
whilst the man of talent peoples the waste places with 
his animating thoughts. Seneca declares that folly is 
its own burden, — omnis stultitia labor at fastidio sui, 
— a very true saying, with which may be compared 
theavords of Jesus, the son of Sirach, The life of a fool 
is worse than death. 1 And, as a rule, it will be found 
that a man is sociable just in the degree in which he 
is intellectually poor and generally vulgar. For one's 
choice in this world does not go much beyond solitude 
on one side and vulgarity on the other. It is said 
that the most sociable of all people are the negroes ;] 
and they are at the bottom of the scale in intellect. 
I remember reading once in a French paper 2 that the 
blacks in North America, whether free or enslaved, 
are fond of shutting themselves up in large numbers 
in the smallest space, because they cannot have too 
much of one another's snub-nosed company. 

The brain may be regarded as a kind of parasite of 
the organism, a pensioner, as it were, who dwells with 
the body : and leisure, that is, the time one has for 
the free enjoyment of one's consciousness or indi- 
viduality, is the fruit or produce of the rest of exist- 
ence, which is in general only labour and effort. But 

1 Ecclesiasfcicus, xxii. 11. 

2 Le Commerce, Oct. 19th, 1837. 


what does most people's leisure yield ? — boredom and 
dulness ; except, of course, when it is occupied with 
sensual pleasure or folly. How little such leisure is 
worth may be seen in the way in which it is spent : 
and, as Ariosto observes, how miserable are the idle 
hours of ignorant men ! — ozio lungo d'uomini ignor- 
anti. Ordinary people think merely how they shall 
spend their time ; a man of any talent tries to use it. 
The reason why people of limited intellect are apt to 
be bored is that their intellect is absolutely nothing 
more than the means by which the motive power of 
the will is put into force • and whenever there is 
nothing particular to set the will in motion, it rests, 
and their intellect takes a holiday, because, equally 
with the will, it requires something external to bring 
it into play. The result is an awful stagnation of 
whatever power a man has — in a word, boredom. To 
counteract this miserable feeling, men run to triviali- 
ties which please for the moment they are taken up, 
hoping thus to engage the will in order to rouse it to 
action, and so set the intellect in motion ; for it is the 
latter which has to give effect to these motives of the 
will. Compared with real and natural motives, these 
are but as paper money to coin ; for their value is 
only arbitrary — card games and the like, which have 
been invented for this very purpose. And if there is 
nothing else to be done, a man will twirl his thumbs 
or beat the devil's tattoo ; or a cigar may be a wel- 
come substitute for exercising his brains. Hence, in 
all countries the chief occupation of society is card- 
playing, 1 and it is the gauge of its value, and an out- 
1 Translator's Note. — Card-playing to this extent is now, no 


ward sign that it is bankrupt in thought. Because 
people have no thoughts to deal in, they deal cards, 
and try and win one another's money. Idiots ! But 
I do not wish to be unjust ; so let me remark that it 
may certainly be said in defence of card-playing that 
it is a preparation for the world and for business life, 
because one learns thereby how to make a clever use 
of fortuitous but unalterable circumstances, (cards, m 
this case), and to get as much out of them as one can : 
and to do this a man must learn a little dissimulation, 
and how to put a good face upon a bad business. But, 
on the other hand, it is exactly for this reason that 
card-playing is so demoralising, since the whole object 
of it is to employ every kind of trick and machination 
in order to win what belongs to another. And a 
habit of this sort, learnt at the card-table, strikes root 
and pushes its way into practical life ; and in the 
affairs of every day a man gradually comes to regard 
meum and tuum in much the same light as cards, and 
to consider that he may use to the utmost whatever 
advantages he possesses, so long as he does not come 
within the arm of the law. Examples of what I mean 
are of daily occurrence in mercantile life. Since, 
then, leisure is the flower, or rather the fruit, of ex- 
istence, as it puts a man into possession of himself, 
those are happy indeed who possess something real in 
themselves. But what do you get from most people's 
leisure ? — only a good-for-nothing fellow, who is ter- 
ribly bored and a burden to himself. Let us, there- 
doubt, a thing of the past, at any rate amongst the nations of 
northern Europe. The present fashion is rather in favour of a 
dilettante interest in art or literature. 
Nfl^-t wt ***** TV/ 


fore, rejoice, dear brethren, for we are not children of 
the bondwoman, but of the free. 

Further, as no land is so well off as that which re- 
quires few imports, or none at all, so the happiest man 
is one who has enough in his own inner wealth, and 
asks little or nothing from outside for his maintenance. 
For imports are expensive things, reveal dependence, en- 
tail danger, occasion trouble, and, when all is said and 
done, are a poor substitute for home produce. No 
man ought to expect much from others, or, in general, 
from the external world. What one human being 
can be to another is not a very great deal : in the end 
every one stands alone, and the important thing is 
who it is that stands alone. Here, then, is another 
application of the general truth which Goethe recog- 
nises in Dichtung und Wahrheit (Bk. III.), that in 
everything a man has ultimately to appeal to himself; 
or, as Goldsmith puts it in The Traveller : 

Still to ourselves in every place consigned 
Our own felicity we make or find. 

Himself is the source of the best and most a man 
can be or achieve. The more this is so — the more a 
man finds his sources of pleasure in himself — the 
happier he will be. Therefore, it is with great truth 
that Aristotle 1 says, To be happy means to be self- — - 
sufficient. For all other sources of happiness are in 
their nature most uncertain, precarious, fleeting, the 
sport of chance ; and so even under the most favour- 
able circumstances they can easily bo exhausted ; nay, 
this is unavoidable, because they are not always 
1 Eth. Eud., vii. 2. 


' P 

within reach. And in old age tliese sources of happi- 
ness most necessarily dry up : — love leaves us then, 
and wit, desire to travel, delight in horses, aptitude 
for social intercourse ; friends and relations, too, are 
taken from us by death. Then more than ever, it 
depends upon what a man has in himself ; for this 
will stick to him longest ; and at any period of life it 
it is the only genuine and lasting source of happiness. 
There is not much to be got anywhere in the world. 
It is filled with misery and pain ; and if a man 
escapes these, boredom lies in wait for him at every 
corner. Nay more ; it is evil which generally has the 
upper hand, and folly makes the most noise. Fate is 
cruel, and mankind pitiable. In such a world as this, 
a man who is rich in himself is like a bright, warm, 
happy room at Christmas tide, while without are 
the frost and snow of a December night. Therefore, 
without doubt, the happiest destiny on earth is to 
have the rare gift of a rich individuality, and, more 
especially, to be possessed of a good endowment 
of intellect; this is the happiest destiny, though it 
may not be, after all, a very brilliant one. There was 
great wisdom in that remark which Queen Christina 
of Sweden made, in her nineteenth year, about 
Descartes, who had then lived for twenty years in 
the deepest solitude in Holland, and, apart from 
report, was known to her only by a single essay : M. 
Descartes, she said, is the happiest of men, and his con- 
dition seems to me much to be envied. 1 Of course, as 
was the case with Descartes, external circumstances 
must be favourable enough to allow a man to be 
1 Vie de Descartes, par Baillet. Li v. vii., ch. 10, 


master of his life and happiness ; or, as we read in 
Fcclesiastes, 1 — Wisdom is good together with an inheri- 
tance, and profitable unto them that see the sun. The 
man to whom nature and fate have granted the 
blessing of wisdom, will be most anxious and careful 
to keep open the fountains of happiness which he has 
in himself ; and for this, independence and leisure are 
necessary. To obtain them, he will be willing to 
moderate his desires and harbour his resources; all the 
more because he is not, like others, restricted to 
the external world for his pleasures. So he will not 
be misled by expectations of office, or money, or 
the favour and applause of his fellow-men, into sur- 
rendering himself in order to conform to low desires 
and vulgar tastes ; nay, in such a case he will follow 
the advice that Horace gives in his epistle to 
Maecenas. 2 It is a great piece of folly to sacrifice the 
inner for the outer man, to give the whole or the 
greater part of one's quiet leisure and independence 
for splendour, rank, pomp, titles and honour. This is 
what Goethe did. My good luck drew me quite in 
the other direction. 

The truth which I am insisting upon here, the 
truth, namely, that the chief source of human happi- 
ness is internal, is confirmed by that most accurate 
observation of Aristotle in the Nichomachean Ethics? 
that every pleasure presupposes some sort of activity, 

i vii. 12. 

2 Lib. 1., ep. 7. 

Nee somnum plebis laudo, satur altilnim, nee 
Otia divitiis Arabum Uberrima muto, 

3 i. 7 and vii, 13, 14, 


the application of some sort of power, without which 
it cannot exist. The doctrine of Aristotle's, that a 
man's happiness consists in the free exercise of his 
highest faculties, is also enunciated by Stobasus in his 
exposition of the Peripatetic philosophy 1 : Happiness, 
\ he says, means vigorous and successful activity in all 
your undertakings; and he explains that by vigour 
(apkrrj) he means mastery in any thing, whatever it be. 
Now, the original purpose of those forces with which 
nature has endowed man is to enable him to struggle 
against the difficulties which beset him on all sides. 
But if this struggle comes to an end, his unemployed 
forces become a burden to him ; and he has to set to 
work and play with them, — use them, I mean, for no 
purpose at all, beyond avoiding the other source oi 
human suffering, boredom, to which he is at once ex- 
posed. It is the upper classes, people of wealth, who 
are the greatest victims of boredom. Lucretius long 
ago described their miserable state, and the truth of 
his description may be still recognised to-day in the 
life of every great capital — where the rich man is 
seldom in his own halls, because it bores him to be 
there, and still he returns thither, because he is no 
better off outside ; — or else he is away in post- 
haste to his house in the country, as if it were on fire ; 
and he is no sooner arrived there, than he is bored 
again, and seeks to forget everything in sleep, or else 
hurries back to town once more. 

Exit saepeforas magnis ex cedibus ille, 

Esse domi quern pertaesum est, subitoque reventat ; 

Quippe foris nihilo melius qui sentiat esse. 

1 Eel. eth. ii., ch. 7. 


Currit, agens mannos, ad villam precijntanter, 
Auxilium tectis quasi ferre ardentibus instans : 
Oscitat extemplo, tetigit quum lirnhia villac ; 
Aut abit in somnum gravis, atque oblivia quaerit ; 
Aut etiam properans urbem petit atque revisit. 1 

In their youth, such people must have had a super- 
fluity of muscular and vital energy, — powers which, 
unlike those of the mind, cannot maintain their full 
degree of vigour very long ; and in later years they 
either have no mental powers at all, or cannot develope 
any for want of employment which would bring them 
into play ; so that they are in a wretched plight. 
Will, however, they still possess, for this isjthe only 
power that is inexhaustible ; and they try to stimulate 
their will by passionate excitement, such as games of 
chance for high stakes — undoubtedly a most degrading 
form of vice. And one may say generally that if a 
man finds himself with nothing to do, he is sure to 
choose some amusement suited to the kind of power 
in which he excels, — bowls, it may be, or chess ; hunt- 
ing or painting ; horse-racing or music ; cards, or 
poetry, heraldry, philosophy, or some other dilettante 
interest. We might classify these interests methodi- 
cally, by reducing them to expressions of the three 
fundamental powers, the factors, that is to say, which go 
to make up the physiological constitution of man ; and 
further, by considering these powers by themselves, 
and apart from any of the definite aims which they 
may subserve, and simply as affording three sources 
of possible pleasure, out of which every man will 
choose what suits him, according as he excels in one 

direction or another. 

1 III. 1073. 



First of all come the pleasures of vital energy, 
of food, drink, digestion, rest and sleep ; and there are 
parts of the world where it can be said that these are 
characteristic and national pleasures. Secondly, there 
are the pleasures of muscular energy, such as walking, 
running, wrestling, dancing, fencing, riding and similar 
athletic pursuits, which sometimes take the form of 
sport, and sometimes of a military life and real war- 
fare. Thirdly, there are the pleasures of sensibility, 
such as observation, thought, feeling, or a taste for 
poetry or culture, music, learning, reading, meditation, 
invention, philosophy and the like. As regards the 
value, relative worth and duration of each of these 
kinds of pleasure, a great deal might be said, which, 
however, I leave the reader to supply. But every one 
will see that the nobler the power which is brought 
into play, the greater will be the pleasure which it 
gives ; for pleasure always involves the use of one's 
own powers, and happiness consists in a frequent 
repetition of pleasure. No one will deny that in this 
respect the pleasures of sensibility occupy a higher 
place than either of the other two fundamental kinds; 
which exist in an equal, nay, in a greater degree in 
brutes ; it is his preponderating amount of sensibility 
which distinguishes man from other animals. Now, 
our mental powers are forms of sensibility, and there- 
fore a preponderating amount of it makes us capable 
of that kind of pleasure which has to do with mind, 
so-called intellectual pleasure; and the more sensi- 
bility predominates, the greater the pleasure will be. 1 

1 Nature exhibits a continual progress, starting from the 
mechanical and chemical activity of the inorganic world, pro- 


The normal, ordinary man takes a vivid interest in 
anything only in so far as it excites his will, that is 
to say, is a matter of personal interest to him. But 

ceeding to the vegetable, with its dull enjoyment of self, from 
that to the animal world, where intelligence and consciousness 
begin, at first very weak, and only after many intermediate 
stages ^attaining its last great development in man, whose 
intellect is Nature's crowning point, the goal of all her efforts, 
the most perfect and difficult of all her works. And even 
within the range of the human intellect, there are a great many 
observable differences of degree, and it is very seldom that 
intellect reaches its highest point, intelligence properly so-called, 
which in this narrow and strict sense of the word, is Nature's most 
consummate product, and so the rarest and most precious thing 
of which the world can boast. The highest product of Nature 
is the clearest degree of consciousness, in which the world 
mirrors itself more plainly and completely than anywhere else. 
A man endowed with this form of intelligence is in possession of 
what is noblest and best on earth ; and accordingly, he has a 
source of pleasure in comparison with which all others are 
small. From his surroundings he asks nothing but leisure for 
the free enjoyment of what he has got, time, as it were, to 
polish his diamond. All other pleasures that are not of the 
intellect are of a lower kind ; for they are, one and all, move- 
ments of will — desires, hopes, fears and ambitions, no matter to 
what directed : they are always satisfied at the cost of pain, and 
in the case of ambition, generally with more or less of illusion. 
With intellectual pleasure, on the other hand, truth becomes 
clearer and clearer. In the realm of intelligence pain has no 
power. Knowledge is all in all. Further, intellectual pleasures 
are accessible entirely and only through the medium of the in- 
telligence, and are limited by its capacity. For aU the wit there 
is in the world is useless to him who has none. Still this advan- 
tage is accompanied by a substantial disadvantage; for the 
whole of Nature shows that with the growth of intelligence 
comes increased capacity for pain, and it is only with the highest 
degree of intelligence that suffering reaches its supreme point. 


constant excitement of the will is never an unmixed 
good, to say the least ; in other words, it involves 
pain. Card -playing, that universal occupation of 
" good society " everywhere, is a device for providing 
this kind of excitement, and that, too, by means of 
interests so small as to produce slight and momen- 
tary, instead of real and permanent, pain. Card-play- 
ing is, in fact, a mere tickling of the will. 1 

On the other hand, a man of powerful intellect is 
capable of taking a vivid interest in things in the 
way of mere knowledge, with no admixture of will ; 
nay, such an interest is a necessity to him. It places 
him in a sphere where pain is an alien, a diviner air 
where the gods live serene: — 

1 Vulgarity is, at bottom, the kind of consciousness in which 
the will completely predominates over the intellect, where the 
latter does nothing more than perform the service of its master, 
the will. Therefore, when the will makes no demands, supplies 
no motives, strong or weak, the intellect entirely loses its power, 
and the result is complete vacancy of mind. Now will without 
intellect is the most vulgar and common thing in the world, 
possessed by every blockhead, who, in the gratification of his 
passions, shows the stuff of which he is made. This is the con- 
dition of mind called vulgarity, in which the only active elements 
are the organs of sense, and that small amount of intellect 
which is necessary for apprehending the data of sense. Accord- 
ingly, the vulgar man is constantly open to all sorts of impres- 
sions, and immediately perceives all the little trifling things 
that go on in his environment : the lightest whisper, the most 
trivial circumstance, is sufficient to rouse his attention ; he is 
just like an animal. Such a man's mental condition reveals 
itself in his face, in his whole exterior ; and hence that vulgar, 
repulsive appearance, which is all the more offensive, if, as ia 
usually the case, his will — the only factor in his consciousness — 
is a base, selfish and altogether bad one. 


6eol pela ^wovTe?. 1 

Look on these two pictures — the life of the masses, 
one long, dull record of struggle and effort entirely 
devoted to the petty interests of personal welfare, to 
misery in all its forms, a life beset by intolerable 
boredom as soon as ever those aims are satisfied and 
the man is thrown back upon himself, whence he can 
be roused again to some sort of movement only by 
the wild fire of passion. On the other side you have 
a man endowed with a high degree of mental power, 
leading an existence rich in thought and full of life 
and meaning, occupied by worthy and interesting 
objects as soon as ever he is free to give himself to 
them, bearing in himself a source of the noblest plea- 
sure. What external promptings he wants come from 
the works of nature, and from the contemplation of 
human affairs and the achievements of the great of all 
ages and countries, which are thoroughly appreciated 
by a man of this type alone, as being the only one 
who can quite understand and feel with them. And 
so it is for him alone that those great ones have really 
lived ; it is to him that they make their appeal ; the 
rest are but casual hearers who only half understand 
either them or their followers. Of course, this char- 
acteristic of the intellectual man implies that he has 
one more need than the others, the need of reading, 
observing, studying, meditating, practising, the need, 
in short, of undisturbed leisure. For, as Voltaire has 
very rightly said, there are no real pleasures without 
real needs ; and the need of them is why to such a 

1 Odyssey IV., 805. 


man pleasures are accessible which are denied to others, 
— the varied beauties of nature and art and literature. 
To heap these round people who do not want them 
and cannot appreciate them, is like expecting grey- 
hairs to fall in love. A man who is privileged in this 
respect leads two lives, a personal and an intellectual, 
life; and the latter gradually comes to be looked upon 
as the true one, and the former as merely a means to 
it. Other people make this shallow, empty and 
troubled existence an end in itself. To the life of the 
intellect such a man will give the preference over all 
his other occupations : by the constant growth of in- 
sight and knowledge, this intellectual life, like a 
slowly-forming work of art, will acquire a consistency, 
a permanent intensity, a unity which becomes ever 
more and more complete ; compared with which, a 
life devoted to the attainment of personal comfort, 
a life that may broaden indeed, but can never be 
deepened, makes but a poor show : and yet, as I have 
said, people make this baser sort of existence an end 
in itself. 

The ordinary life of every day, so far as it is not 
moved by passion, is tedious and insipid ; and if it is 
so moved, it soon becomes painful. Those alone are 
happy whom nature has favoured with some super- 
fluity of intellect, something beyond what is just 
necessary to carry out the behests of their will; for it 
enables them to lead an intellectual life as well, a life 
unattended by pain and full of vivid interests. Mere 
leisure, that is to say, intellect unoccupied in the ser- 
vice of the will, is not of itself sufficient : there must 
tie a real superfluity of power, set free from the ser- 


vice of the will and devoted to that of the intellect ; 
for, as Seneca says, otium sine litteris mors est et vivi 
hominis sepultura — illiterate leisure is a form of 
death, a living tomb. Varying with the amount of 
the superfluity, there will be countless developments 
in this second life, the life of the mind ; it may be the 
mere collection and labelling of insects, birds, minerals, 
coins, or the highest achievements of poetry and phil- 
osophy. The life of the mind is not only a protection 
against boredom, it also wards off the pernicious effects 
of boredom ; it keeps us from bad company, from the 
many dangers, misfortunes, losses and extravagances 
which the man who places his happiness entirely in 
the objective world is sure to encounter. My phil- 
osophy, for instance, has never brought me in a six- 
pence ; but it has spared me many an expense. 

The ordinary man places his life's happiness in 
things external to him, in property, rank, wife and 
children, friends, society, and the like, so that when 
he loses them or finds them disappointing, the founda- 
tion of his happiness is destroyed. In other words, 
his centre of gravity is not in himself; it is constantly 
changing its place, with every wish and whim. If he 
is a man of means, one day it will be his house in the 
country, another buying horses, or entertaining friends, 
or travelling, — a life, in short, of general luxury, the 
reason being that he seeks his pleasure in things out- 
side him. Like one whose health and strength are 
gone, he tries to regain by the use of jellies and drugs, 
instead of by developing his own vital power, the true 
source of what he has lost. Before proceeding to the 
opposite, let us compare with this common type the 


man who cotues midway between the two, endowed, 
it may be, not exactly with distinguished powers of 
mind, but with somewhat more than the ordinary 
amount of intellect. He will take a dilettante interest 
in art, or devote his attention to some branch of 
science — botany, for example, or physics, astronomy, 
history, and find a great deal of pleasure in such 
studies, and amuse himself with them when external 
sources of happiness are exhausted or fail to satisfy 
him any more. Of a man like this it may be said that 
his centre of gravity is partly in himself. But a 
dilettante interest in art is a very different thing from 
creative activity ; and an amateur pursuit of science is 
apt to be superficial and not to penetrate to the heart 
of the matter. A man cannot entirely identify himself 
with such pursuits, or have his whole existence so 
completely filled and permeated with them that he 
loses all interest in everything else. It is only the 
highest intellectual power, what we call genius, that 
attains to this degree of intensity, making all time 
and existence its theme, and striving to express its 
peculiar conception of the world, whether it contem- 
plates life as the subject of poetry or of philosophy. 
Hence, undisturbed occupation with himself, his own 
thoughts and works, is a matter of urgent necessity 
to such a man; solitude is welcome, leisure is the 
highest good, and everything else is unnecessary, nay, 
even burdensome. 

This is the only type of man of whom it can be 
said that his centre of gravity is entirely in himself ; 
which explains why it is that people of this sort — 
and they are very rare — no matter how excellent their 


character may be, do not show that warm and un- 
limited interest in friends, family, and the community 
in general, of which others are so often capable ; for 
if they have only themselves they are not inconsolable 
for the loss of everything else. This gives an isola- 
tion to their character, which is all the more effective 
since other people never really quite satisfy them, as 
being, on the whole, of a different nature : nay more, 
since this difference is constantly forcing itself upon 
their notice, they get accustomed to move about 
amongst mankind as alien beings, and in thinking of 
humanity in general, to say they instead of we. 

So the conclusion we come to is that the man 
whom nature has endowed with intellectual wealth is 
the happiest; so true ib is that the subjective concerns 
us more than the objective ; for whatever the latter 
may be, it can work only indirectly, secondarily, and 
through the medium of the former — a truth finely ex- 
pressed by Lucian : — 

UXovros 6 tt)s ftvxv s kXovtos jjlovos IcrTiv d\7]0rjs 
TaAAa S'eX 66 <*T7;v TrXetova ruv Kreavcov 1 

— the wealth of the soul is the only true wealth, for 
with all other riches comes a bane even greater than 
they. The man of inner wealth wants nothing from 
outside but the negative gift of undisturbed leisure, 
to develop and mature his intellectual faculties, that 
is, to enjoy his wealth ; in short, he wants permission 
to be himself, his whole life long, every day and every 
hour. If he is destined to impress the character of 
his mind upon a whole race, he has only one measure 
1 Epigrammata, 12. 



of happiness or unhappiness — to succeed or fail in 
perfecting his powers and completing his work. AH 
else is of small consequence. Accordingly, the greatest 
minds of all ages have set the highest value upon 
undisturbed leisure, as worth exactly as much as the 
man himself. Happiness appears to consist in leisure, 
says Aristotle; 1 and Diogenes Laertius reports that 
Socrates praised leisure as the fairest of all possessions. 
So, in the Nichomacliean Ethics, Aristotle concludes 
that a life devoted to philosophy is the happiest ; or, 
as he says in the Politics, 2 the free exercise of any 
power, whatever it may be, is happiness. This, again, 
tallies with what Goethe says in Wilhelm Meister : The 
man who is born with a talent which he is meant to 
use, finds his greatest happiness in using it. 

But to be in possession of undisturbed leisure is 
far from being the common lot; nay, it is something 
alien to human nature, for the ordinary man's destiny 
is to spend life in procuring what is necessary for the 
subsistence of himself and his family ; he is a son of 
struggle and need, not a free intelligence. So people 
as a rule soon get tired of undisturbed leisure, and it 
becomes burdensome if there are no fictitious and 
forced aims to occupy it, play, pastime and hobbies of 
every kind. For this very reason it is full of possible 
danger, and dijficilis in otio quies is a true saying, 
— it is difficult to keep quiet if you have nothing to 
do. On the other hand, a measure of intellect far 
surpassing the ordinary is as unnatural as it is 
abnormal. But if it exists, and the man endowed 
with it is to be happy, he will want precisely that 
1 Eth. Nichom. x. 7. 2 iv. 1L 


undisturbed leisure which the others find burdensome 
or pernicious; for without it he is a Pegasus in 
harness, and consequently unhappy. If these two 
unnatural circumstances, external and internal, undis- 
turbed leisure and great intellect, happen to coincide 
in the same person, it is a great piece of fortune ; and 
if fate is so far favourable, a man can lead the higher 
life, the life protected from the two opposite sources 
of human suffering, pain and boredom, from the pain- 
ful struggle for existence, and the incapacity for 
enduring leisure (which is free existence itself) — 
evils which may be escaped only by being mutually 

But there is something to be said in opposition to 
this view. Great intellectual gifts mean an activity 
pre-eminently nervous in its character, and consequently 
a very high degree of susceptibility to pain in every 
form. Further, such gifts imply an intense tempera- 
ment, larger and more vivid ideas, which, as the 
inseparable accompaniment of great intellectual power, 
entail on its possessor a corresponding intensity of the 
emotions, making them incomparably more violent 
than those to which the ordinary man is a prey. 
Now, there are more things in the world productive 
of pain than of pleasure. Again, a large endowment 
of intellect tends to estrange the man who has it from 
other people and their doings ; for the more a man 
^ has in himself, the less he will be able to find in them ; 
and the hundred things in which they take delight, 
he will think shallow and insipid. Here, then, per- 
haps, is another instance of that law of compensation 
which makes itself felt everywhere. How often on© 


hears it said, and said, too, with some plausibility, 
that the narrow-minded man is at bottom the 
happiest, even though his fortune is unenviable. I 
shall make no attempt to forestall the reader's own 
judgment on this point; more especially as Sophocles 
himself has given utterance to two diametrically 
opposite opinions : — 

IIoAAw to cfipovciv evSaifiovias 
irpdrov virapxci'. 1 

he says in one place — wisdom is the greatest part of 
happiness ; and again, in another passage, he declares 
that the life of the thoughtless is the most pleasant 
of all— 

5 Ei/ ra <f>poveiv yap fxrjSlv r/SicrTOS J3ios. 2 

The philosophers of the Old Testament find them- 
selves in a like contradiction. 

The life of a fool is worse than death 3 

and — 

In much wisdom is much grief ; 

And he thai increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow. 4 

I may remark, however, that a man who has no 
mental needs, because his intellect is of the narrow 
and normal amount, is, in the strict sense of the word, 
what is called a philistine — an expression at first 
peculiar to the German language, a kind of slang term 
at the Universities, afterwards used, by analogy, in a 

1 Antigone, 1347-8. 8 Ecclesiasticus, xxii. 11. 

2 Ajax, 554. 4 Ecclesiastes, i. 18. 


higher sense, though still in its original meaning, as 
denoting one who is not a Son of the Muses. A 
philistine is and remains apovo-os dvqp. I should prefer 
to take a higher point of view, and apply the term 
philistine to people who are always seriously occupied 

^ with realities which are no realities ; but as such a 
definition would be a transcendental one, and there- 
fore not generally intelligible, it would hardly be in 
place in the present treatise, which aims at being 
popular. The other definition can be more easily 
elucidated, indicating, as it does, satisfactorily enough, 
the essential nature of all those qualities which dis- 
tinguish the philistine. He is defined to be a 

x man without mental needs. From this it follows, 
firstly, in relation to himself that he has no intel- 
lectual pleasures ; for, as was remarked before, there 
are no real pleasures without real needs. The philis- 
tine's life is animated by no desire to gain knowledge 
and insight for their own sake, or to experience that 
true aesthetic pleasure which is so nearly akin to them. 
If pleasures of this kind are fashionable, and the 
philistine finds himself compelled to pay attention to 
them, he will force himself to do so, but he will take as 
little interest in them as possible. His only real pleasures 
are of a sensual kind, and he thinks that these indemnify 
him for the loss of the others. To him oysters and cham- 
pagne are the height of existence ; the aim of his life 
is to procure what will contribute to his bodily welfare, 
and he is indeed in a happy way if this causes him some 
trouble, If the luxuries of life are heaped upon him, 
he will inevitably be bored, and against boredom he 
has a great many fancied remedies, balls, theatres. 


parties, cards, gambling, horses, women, drinking, 
travelling and so on ; all of which can not protect a 
man from being bored, for where there are no intel- 
lectual needs, no intellectual pleasures are possible. 
The peculiar characteristic of the philistine is a dull, 
dry kind of gravity, akin to that of animals. Nothing 
really pleases, or excites, or interests him, for sensual 
pleasure is quickly exhausted, and the society of 
philistines soon becomes burdensome, and one may 
even get tired of playing cards. True, the pleasures 
of vanity are left, pleasures which he enjoys in his 
own way, either by feeling himself superior in point 
of wealth, or rank, or influence and power to other 
people, who thereupon pay him honour ; or, at any 
rate, by going about with those who have a super- 
fluity of these blessings, sunning himself in the 
reflection of their splendour — what the English call 
a snob. 

From the essential nature of the philistine it follows, 
secondly, in regard to others, that, as he possesses no 
intellectual, but only physical needs, he will seek the 
society of those who can satisfy the latter, but not 
the former. The last thing he will expect from his 
friends is the possession of any sort of intellectual 
capacity ; nay, if he chances to meet with it, it will 
rouse his antipathy and even hatred ; simply because 
in addition to an unpleasant sense of inferiority, he 
experiences, in his heart, a dull kind of envy, which 
has to be carefully concealed even from himself. 
Nevertheless, it sometimes grows into a secret feeling 
of rancour. But for all that, it wiD never occur to 
him to make his own ideas of worth or value conform 


to the standard of such qualities ; he will continue to 
give the preference to rank and riches, power and 
influence, which in his eyes seem to be the only 
genuine advantages in the world ; and his wish will 
be to excel in them himself. All this is the conse- 
quence of his being a man without intellectual needs. 
The great affliction of all philistines is that they have 
no interest in ideas, and that, to escape being bored, 
they are in constant need of realities. Now realities 
are either unsatisfactory or dangerous ; when they 
lose their interest, they become fatiguing. But the 
ideal world is illimitable and calm, 

something afar 
From the sphere of our sorrow. 

Note. — In these remarks on the personal qualities 
which go to make happiness, I have been mainly con- 
cerned with the physical and intellectual nature of 
man. For an account of the direct and immediate 
influence of morality upon happiness, let me refer to 
my prize essay on The Foundation of Morals (Sec 



Epicurus divides the needs of mankind into three 
classes, and the division made by this great professor 
of happiness is a true and a fine one. First come 
natural and necessary needs, such as, when not satis- 
fied, produce pain, — food and clothing, victus et 
amictus, needs which can easily be satisfied. Secondly, 
there are those needs which, though natural, are not 
necessary, such as the gratification of certain of the 
senses. I may add, however, that in the report given 
by Diogenes Laertius, Epicurus does not mention 
which of the senses he means ; so that on this point 
my account of his doctrine is somewhat more definite 
and exact than the original. These are needs rather 
more difficult to satisfy. The third class consists of 
needs which are neither natural nor necessary, the 
need of luxury and prodigality, show and splendour, 
which never come to an end, and are very hard to 
satisfy. 1 

It is difficult, if not impossible, to define the limits 
which reason should impose on the desire for wealth ; 
for there is no absolute or definite amount of wealth 
which will satisfy a man. The amount is always 
relative, that is to say, just so much as will maintain 

1 Cf. Diogenes Laertius, Bk. x., ch. xxvii., pp. 127 and 149 • 
also Cicero definibus, i., 13. 



the proportion between what he wants and what he 
gets; for to measure a man's happiness only by what he 
gets, and not also by what he expects to get, is as futile 
as to try to express a fraction which shall have a 
numerator but no denominator. A man never feels 
the loss of things which it never occurs to him to ask 
for ; he is just as happy without them ; whilst an- 
other, who may have a hundred times as much, feels 
miserable because he has not got the one thing which 
he wants. In fact, here too, every man has an horizon 
of his own. and he will expect just as much as he 
thinks it possible for him to get. If an object within 
his horizon looks as though he could confidently 
reckon on getting it, he is happy ; but if difficulties 
come in the way, he is miserable. What lies beyond 
his horizon has no effect at all upon him. So it is 
that the vast possessions of the rich do not agitate 
the poor, and conversely, that a wealthy man is not 
consoled by all his wealth for the failure of his hopes. 
Riches, one may say, are like sea- water: the more you 
drink, the thirstier you become ; and the same is true 
of fame. The loss of wealth and prosperity leaves a 
man, as soon as the first pangs of grief are over, in 
very much the same habitual temper as before ; and 
the reason of this is, that as soon as fate diminishes 
the amount of his possessions, he himself immediately 
reduces the amount of his claims. But when misfor- 
tune comes upon us, to reduce the amount of our 
claims is just what is most painful; when once we have 
done so, the pain becomes less and less, and is felt no 
more ; like an old wound which has healed. Con- 
versely, when a piece of good fortune befalls us, our 


claims mount higher and higher, as there is nothing 
to regulate them. It is in this feeling of expansion 
that the delight of it lies. But it lasts no longer than 
the process itself, and when the expansion is complete, 
the delight ceases: we have become accustomed to the 
increase in our claims, and consequently indifferent to 
the amount of wealth which satisfies them. There is 
a passage in the Odyssey 1 illustrating this truth, of 
which I may quote the last two lines : 

Totos yap voos ecrrlv kirL^doviinv dv9p(o7ro)V 
Olov J<£ fjjxap ayet Trarrjp avSpwv re deiov re. 

— the thoughts of man that dwells on the earth are as 
the day granted him by the father of gods and men. 
Discontent springs from a constant endeavour to in- 
crease the amount of our claims, when we are power- 
less to increase the amount which will satisfy them. 

When we consider how full of needs the human 
race is, how its whole existence is based upon them, it 
is not a matter for surprise that wealth is held in 
more sincere esteem, nay, in greater honour, than 
anything else in the world ; nor ought we to wonder 
that gain is made the only goal of life, and everything 
that does not lead to it pushed aside or thrown over- 
board — philosophy, for instance, by those who profess 
it. People are often reproached for wishing for money 
above all things, and for loving it more than anything 
else ; but it is natural and even inevitable for people 
to love that which, like an unwearied Proteus, is 
always ready to turn itself into whatever object their 
wandering wishes or manifold desires may for the 
i xviii., 130-7. 



moment fix upon Everything else can satisfy only 
one wish, one need : food is good only if you are 
hungry ; wine, if you are able to enjoy it ; drugs, if 
you are sick ; fur for the winter ; love for youth, and 
so on. These are all only relatively good, ayaOa tt/jos t«. 
Money alone is absolutely good, because it is not only 
a concrete satisfaction of one need in particular ; it is 
an abstract satisfaction of all. 

If a man has an independent fortune, he should 
regard it as a bulwark against the many evils and 
misfortunes which lie may encounter; he should not' ' <\<<^-** 
look upon it as giving him leave to get what plea- 
sure he can out of the world, or as rendering it 
incumbent upon him to spend it in this way. /People 
who are not born with a fortune, but end by making 
a large one through the exercise of whatever talents 
they possess, almost always come to think that their 
talents are their capital, and that the money they 
have gained is merely the interest upon it ; they do 
not lay by a part of their earnings to form permanent 
capital, but spend their money much as they have 
earned it. Accordingly, they often fall into poverty : 
their earmngs decrease, or come to an end altogether, 
either because their talent is exhausted by becoming 
antiquated, — as, for instance, very often happens in 
the case of fine art — or else it was valid only under a 
special conjunction of circumstances which has now 
passed away. There is nothing to prevent those who 
live on the common labour of their hands from treat- 
ing their earnings in that way if they like ; because 
their kind of skill is not likely to disappear, or, if it 
does, it can be replaced by that of their fellow- work- 


men ; moreover, the kind of work they do is always 
in demand ; so that what the proverb says is quite 
true, a useful trade is a mine of gold. But with 
artists and professionals of every kind the case is 
quite different, and that is the reason why they are 
well paid. They ought to build up a capital out of 
their earnings; but they recklessly look upon them 
as merely interest, and end in ruin. On the other 
hand, people who inherit money know, at least, how 
to distinguish between capital and interest, and most 
of them try to make their capital secure and not 
encroach upon it ; nay, if they can, they put by at 
least an eighth of their interest in order to meet 
future contingencies. So most of them maintain 
their position. These few remarks about capital and 
interest are not applicable to commercial life, for 
merchants look upon money only as a means of 
further gain, just as a workman regards his tools ; so 
even if their capital has been entirely the result of 
their own efforts, they try to preserve and increase it 
by using it. Accordingly, wealth is nowhere so much 
at home as in the merchant class. 

It will generally be found that those who know 
what it is to have been in need and destitution are 
very much less afraid of it, and consequently more 
inclined to extravagance, than those who know poverty 
only by hearsay. People who have been born and 
bred in good circumstances are as a rule much more 
careful about the future, more economical, in fact, 
than those who by a piece of good luck, have sud- 
denly passed from poverty to wealth. This looks as 
if poverty were not really such a very wretched thing 


as it appears from a distance. The true reason, 
however, is rather the fact that the man who has 
been born into a position of wealth comes to look 
upon it as something without which he could no more 
live than he could live without air ; he guards it as 
he does his very life ; and so he is generally a lover 
of order, prudent and economical. But the man who 
has been born into a poor position looks upon it as 
the natural one, and if by any chance he comes in for 
a fortune, he regards it as a superfluity, something to 
be enjoyed or wasted, because, if it comes to an end, 
he can get on just as well as before, with one anxiety 
the less ; or, as Shakespeare says in Henry VI., 1 

.... the adage must be verified 
That beggars mounted run their horse to death. 

But it should be said that people of this kind have a 
firm and excessive trust, partly in fate, partly in the 
peculiar means which have already raised them out 
of need and poverty, — a trust not only of the head, but 
of the heart also ; and so they do not, like the man 
born rich, look upon the shallows of poverty as 
bottomless, but console themselves with the thought 
that when they have touched ground again, they can 
take another upward flight. It is this trait in human 
character which explains the fact that women who 
were poor before their marriage often make greater 
claims, and are more extravagant, than those who 
have brought their husbands a rich dowry ; because 
as a rule, rich girls bring with them, not only a 
fortune, but also more eagerness, nay, more of the 
1 Part III., Act 1, Sc. 4. 


inherited instinct, to preserve it, than poor girls do. 
If anyone doubts the truth of this, and thinks that it 
is just the opposite, he will find authority for his 
view in Ariosto's first Satire ; but, on the other hand, 
Dr. Johnson agrees with my opinion. A woman of 
fortune, he says, being used to the handling of money, 
spends it judiciously ; but a woman who gets the 
command of money for the first time upon her mar- 
riage, has such a gusto in spending it, that she throws 
it away with great profusion} And in any case let 
me advise anyone who marries a poor girl not to 
leave her the capital but only the interest, and to 
take especial care that she has not the management 
of the children's fortune. 

I do not by any means think that I am touching 
upon a subject which is not worth my while to 
mention when I recommend people to be careful to 
preserve what they have earned or inherited. For to 
start life with just as much as will make one inde- 
pendent, that is, allow one to live comfortably with- 
out having to work — even if one has only just enough 
for oneself, not to speak of a family — is an advantage 
which cannot be over-estimated ; for it means exemp- 
tion and immunity from that chronic disease of 
penury, which fastens on the life of man like a 
plague ; it is emancipation from that forced labour 
which is the natural lot of every mortal. Only under 
a favourable fate like this can a man be said to be 
born free, to be, in the proper sense of the word, sui 
juris, master of his own time and powers, and able to 
say every morning, This day is my own. And just 
1 Boswell's Life of Johnson : ann : 1776, setat : 67. 


for the same reason the difference between the man 
who has a hundred a year and the man who has a 
thousand, is infinitely smaller than the difference be- 
tween the former and a man who has nothing at all. 
But inherited wealth reaches its utmost value when it 
falls to the individual endowed with mental powers 
of a high order, who is resolved to pursue a line of 
life not compatible with the making of money j for 
he is then doubly endowed by fate and can live for 
his genius ; and he will pay his debt to mankind a 
hundred times, by achieving what no other could 
achieve, by producing some work which contributes 
to the general good, and redounds to the honour of 
humanity at large. Another, again, may use his 
wealth to further philanthropic schemes, and make 
himself well-deserving of his fellow-men. But a man 
who does none of these things, who does not even try 
to do them, who never attempts to study thoroughly 
some one branch of knowledge so that he may at 
least do what he can towards promoting it — such a 
one, born as he is into riches, is a mere idler and 
thief of time, a contemptible fellow. He will not 
even be happy, because, in his ease, exemption from 
need delivers him up to the other extreme of human 
suffering, boredom, which is such martyrdom to him, 
that he would have been better off if poverty had 
given him something to do. And as he is bored he is 
apt to be extravagant, and so lose the advantage of 
which he showed himself unworthy. Countless numbers 
of people find themselves in want, simply because, when 
they had money, they spent it only to get momentary 
relief from the feeling of boredom which oppressed them. 


It is quite another matter if one's object is success m 
political life, where favour, friends and connections 
are all- important, in order to mount by their aid step 
by step on the ladder of promotion, and perhaps gain 
the topmost rung. In this kind of life, it is much 
better to be cast on the world without a penny ; and 
if the aspirant is not of noble family, but is a man of 
some talent, it will redound to his advantage to be an 
absolute pauper. For what every one most aims at 
in ordinary contact with his fellows is to prove them 
inferior to himself ; and how much more is this the 
case in politics. Now, it is only an absolute 
pauper who has such a thorough conviction of his 
own complete, profound and positive inferiority from 
every point of view, of his own utter insignificance 
and worthlessness, that he can take his place quietly 
in the political machine. 1 He is the only one who 
can keep on bowing low enough, and even go right 
down upon his face if necessary ; he alone can sub- 
mit to everything and laugh at it ; he alone knows the 
entire worthlessness of merit; he alone uses his 
loudest voice and his boldest type whenever he has to 
speak or write of those who are placed over his head, 
or occupy any position of influence ; and if they do a 
little scribbling, he is ready to applaud it as a master- 
work. He alone understands how to beg, and so 

1 Translator's Note. — Schopenhauer is probably here making 
one of his many virulent attacks upon Hegel ; in this case on 
account of what he thought to be the philosopher's abject 
servility to the government of his day. Though the Hegelian 
system has been the fruitful mother of many liberal ideas, there 
can be no doubt that Hegel's influence, in his own life-time, was 
an effective support of Prussian bureaucracy. 


betimes, when he is hardly out of his boyhood, he 
becomes a high priest of that hidden mystery which 
Goethe brings to light ; — 

Utber's Niedertraehtige 
Niemand sich beklage : 
JDenn es ist das Machtige 
Was man dir auch sage : 

— it is no use to complain of low aims ; for, whatever 
people may say, they rule the world. 

On the other hand, the man who is born with 
enough to live upon is generally of a somewhat inde- 
pendent turn of mind ; he is accustomed to keep his 
head up ; he has not learned all the arts of the 
beggar ; perhaps he even presumes a little upon the 
possession of talents which, as he ought to know, can 
never compete with cringing mediocrity ; in the long 
run he comes to recognise the inferiority of those who 
are placed over his head, and when they try to put 
insults upon him, he becomes refractory and shy. 
This is not the way to get on in the world. Nay, 
such a man may at last incline to the opinion freely 
expressed by Voltaire: We have only two days to live ; 
it is not worth our while to spend them in cringing to 
contemptible rascals. But alas ! let me observe by the 
way, that contemptible rascal is an attribute which 
may be predicated of an abominable number of people. 
What Juvenal says — it is difficult to rise if your 
poverty is greater than your talent — 

Hand facile emergunt qiwrum virtutibus obstat 
Res angusta domi — 

is more applicable to a eareer of art and literature 
than to political and social ambition. 


Wife and children I have not reckoned amongst a 
man's possessions : he is rather in their possession. It 
would be easier to include friends under that head ; 
but a man's friends belong to him not a whit more 
than he belongs to them. 



Section 1. — Reputation. 

By a peculiar weakness of human nature, people gene- 
rally think too much about the opinion which others 
form of them; although the slightest reflection will show 
that this opinion, whatever it may be, is not in itself 
essential to happiness. Therefore it is hard to under- 
stand why everybody feels so very pleased when he 
sees that other people have a good opinion of him, or 
say anything flattering to his vanity. If you stroke 
a cat, it will purr ; and, as inevitably, if you praise a 
man, a sweet expression of delight will appear on his 
face ; and even though the praise is a palpable lie, it 
will be welcome, if the matter is one on which he 
prides himself. If only other people will applaud 
him, a man may console himself for downright mis- 
fortune, or for the pittance he gets from the two 
sources of human happiness already discussed ; and 
conversely, it is astonishing how infallibly a man will 
be annoyed, and in some cases deeply pained, by any 
wrong done to his feeling of self-importance, whatever 
be the nature, degree, or circumstances of the injury, 
or by any depreciation, slight, or disregard. 


If the feeling of honour rests upon this peculiarity 
of human nature, it may have a very salutary effect 
upon the welfare of a great many people, as a substi- 
tute for morality; but upon their happiness, more 
especially upon that peace of mind and independence 
which are so essential to happiness, its effect will be 
disturbing and prejudicial rather than salutary, 
Therefore it is advisable, from our point of view, 
to set limits to this weakness, and duly to con- 
sider and rightly to estimate the relative value of ad- 
vantages, and thus temper, as far as possible, this great 
susceptibility to other people's opinion, whether the 
opinion be one flattering to our vanity, or whether it 
causes us pain ; for in either case it is the same feel- 
ing which is touched. Otherwise, a man is the slave of 
what other people are pleased to think, — and how 
little it requires to disconcert or soothe the mind that 
is greedy of praise :— 

Sic leve, sic parvum est, animum quod laudis avarum 
Subruit ac reficit. 1 

Therefore it will very much conduce to our happi- 
ness if we duly compare the value of what a man is 
in and for himself with what he is in the eyes of 
others. Under the former comes everything that fills 
up the span of our existence and makes it what it is, 
in short, all the advantages already considered and 
summed up under the heads of personality and pro- 
perty ; and the sphere in which all this takes place is 
the man's own consciousness. On the other hand, the 

1 Horace, Epist : II, 1, 180. 


sphere of what we are for other people is their con- 
sciousness, not ours ; it is the kind of figure we make 
in their eyes, together with the thoughts which this 
arouses. 1 But this is something which has no direct 
and immediate existence for us, but can affect us only 
mediately and indirectly, so far, that is, as other 
people's behaviour towards us is directed by it ; and 
even then it ought to affect us only in so far as it can 
move us to modify what we are in and for ourselves. 
Apart from this, what goes on in other people's con- 
sciousness is, as such, a matter of indifference to us : 
and in time we get really indifferent to it, when we 
come to see how superficial and futile are most people's 
thoughts, how narrow their ideas, how mean their 
sentiments, how perverse their opinions, and how 
much of error there is in most of them ; when we 
learn by experience with what depreciation a man 
will speak of his fellow, when he is not obliged to fear 
him, or thinks that what he says will not come to his 
ears. And if ever we have had an opportunity of 
seeing how the greatest of men will meet with nothing 
but slight from half-a-dozen blockheads, we shall 
understand that to lay great value upon what other 
people say is to pay them too much honour. 

At all events, a man is in a very bad way, who finds 
no source of happiness in the first two classes of bless- 
ings already treated of, but has to seek it in the third, 
in other words, not in what he is in himself, but in 

1 Let me remark that people in the highest positions in life, 
with all their brilliance, pomp, display, magnificence and general 
show, may well say : — Our happiness lies entirely outside us, for 
\ it exists only in the heads of others. 


what he is in the opinion of others. For, after all, 
the foundation of our whole nature, and, therefore, of 
our happiness, is our physique, and the most essential 
factor in happiness is health, and, next in importance 
after health, the ability to maintain ourselves in inde- 
pendence and freedom from caref) There can be no 
competition or compensation between these essential 
factors on the one side, and honour, pomp, rank and 
reputation on the other, however much value we may 
set upon the latter. No one would hesitate to sacri- 
fice the latter for the former, if it were necessary. 
We should add very much to our happiness by a 
timely recognition of the simple truth that every 
man's chief and real existence is in his own skin, and 
not in other people's opinions; and, consequently, that 
the actual conditions of our personal life, — health, 
temperament, capacity, income, wife, children, friends, 
home, are a hundred times more important for our 
happiness than what other people are pleased to think 
of us; otherwise we shall be miserable. And if people 
insist that honour is dearer than life" itself, what they 
really mean is that existence and well-being are as 
nothing compared with other people's opinions. Of 
course, this may be only an exaggerated way of stat- 
ing the prosaic truth that reputation, that is, the 
opinion others have of us, is indispensable if we are 
to make any progress in the world ; but I shall come 
back to that presently. When we see that almost 
everything men devote their lives to attain, sparing 
no effort and encountering a thousand toils and dangers 
in the process, has, in the end, no further object than 
to raise themselves in the estimation of others ; whep 


we see that not only offices, titles, decorations, but also 
wealth, nay, even knowledge x and art, are striven f 01 
only to obtain, as the ultimate goal of all effort, 
greater respect from one's fellow-men, — is not this a 
lamentable proof of the extent to which human folly 
can go ? To set much too high a value on other 
people's opinion is a common error everywhere ; an 
error, it may be, rooted in human nature itself, or the 
result of civilisation and social arrangements gener- 
ally ; but, whatever its source, it exercises a very 
immoderate influence on all we do, and is very preju- 
dicial to our happiness. We can trace it from a. /s r7 f U j\ 
timorous and slavish regard for what other people 
will say, up to the feeling which made Virginius, 
plunge the dagger into his daughter's heart, or induces f/ 
many a man to sacrifice quiet, riches, health and even 
life itself, for posthumous glory. ) Undoubtedly this 
feeling is a very convenient instrument in the hands 
of those who have the control or direction of their 
fellow-men; and accordingly we find that in every 
scheme for training up humanity in the way it should 
go, the maintenance and strengthening of the feeling 
of honour occupies an important place. But it is 
quite a different matter in its effect on human happiness, 
of which it is here our object to treat; and we should 
rather be careful to dissuade people from setting too 
much store by what others think of them. Daily ex- 
perience shows us, however, that this is just the mis- 
take people persist in making; most men set the 
utmost value precisely on what other people think, 

1 Scire tuum nihil est nisi te scire hoc sciat alter, (Persius i. 27) 
*— knowledge is no use unless others know that you have it. 


and are more concerned about it than about what goes 
on in their own consciousness, which is the thing most 
immediately and directly present to them. They 
reverse the natural order, — regarding the opinions o£ 
others as real existence and their own consciousness 
as something shadowy; making the derivative and 
secondary into the principal, and considering the 
picture they present to the world of more importance 
than their own selves. By thus trying to get a direct 
and immediate result out of what has no really direct 
or immediate existence, they fall into the kind of folly 
which is called vanity — the appropriate term for that 
which has no solid or intrinsic value. Like a miser, 
such people forget the end in their eagerness to obtain 
the means. 

The truth is that the value we set upon the opinion 
of others, and our constant endeavour in respect of it, 
are each quite out of proportion to any result we may 
reasonably hope to attain ; so that this attention to 
other people's attitude may be regarded as a kind of 
universal mania which everyone inherits. In all we 
do, almost the first thing we think about is : What will 
people say ; and nearly half the troubles and bothers 
of life may be traced to our anxiety on this score ; it 
is the anxiety which is at the bottom of all that 
feeling of self-importance, which is so often mortified 
because it is so very morbidly sensitive. It is solici- 
tude about what others will say that underlies all our 
vanity and pretension, yes, and all our show and 
swagger too. Without it, there would not be a tenth 
part of the luxury which exists. Pride in every form, 
"point d'honneur and punctilio, however varied their 


kind or sphere, are at bottom nothing but this — 
anxiety about what others will say — and what sacri- 
fices it often costs ! One can see it even in a child ; 
and though it exists at every period of life, it is 
strongest in age; because, when the capacity for 
sensual pleasure fails, vanity and pride have only 
avarice to share their dominion. Frenchmen, perhaps, 
afford the best example of this feeling, and amongst 
them it is a regular epidemic, appearing sometimes in 
the most absurd ambition, or in a ridiculous kind of 
national vanity and the most shameless boasting. 
However, they frustrate their own aims, for other 
people make fun of them and call them la grande 

By way of specially illustrating this perverse and 
exuberant respect for other people's opinion, let me 
take a passage from the Times of March 31st, 1846, 
giving a detailed account of the execution of one 
Thomas Wix, an apprentice who, from motives of 
vengeance, had murdered his master. Here we have 
very unusual circumstances and an extraordinary 
character, though one very suitable for our purpose ; 
and these combine to give a striking picture of this 
folly, which is so deeply rooted in human nature, and 
allow us to form an accurate notion of the extent to 
which it will go. On the morning of the execution, 
jays the report, the rev. ordinary was early in 
attendance upon him, but Wix, beyond a quiet 
demeanour, betrayed no interest in his ministrations, 
appearing to feel anxious only to acquit himself 
" bravely " before the spectators of his ignominious 
end In the procession Wix fell into his 



proper place with alacrity, and, as he entered the 
Chapel-yard, remarked, sufficiently loud to be heard 
by several persons near him, "Now, then, as Dr. J) odd 
said, I shall soon know the grand secret" On reach- 
ing the scaffold, the miserable wretch mounted the 
drop without the slightest assistance, and when he 
got to the centre, he bowed to the spectators twice, a 
proceeding which called forth a tremendous cheer 
from the degraded crowd beneath. 

This is an admirable example of the way in which a 
man, with death in the most dreadful form before his 
very eyes, and eternity beyond it, will care for 
nothing but the impression he makes upon a crowd of 
gapers, and the opinion he leaves behind him in their 
heads. There was much the same kind of thing in 
the case of Lecomte, w T ho was executed at Frankfurt, 
also in 1846, for an attempt on the king's life. At the 
trial he was verj T much annoyed that he was not 
allowed to appear, in decent attire, before the Upper 
House ; and on the day of the execution it was a 
special grief to him that he was not permitted to 
shave. It is not only in recent times that this kind 
of thing has been known to happen. Mateo Aleman 
tells us, in the Introduction to his celebrated romance, 
Guzman de Alfarache, that many infatuated criminals, 
instead of devoting their last hours to the welfare of 
their souls, as they ought to have done, neglect this 
duty for the purpose of preparing and committing to 
memory a speech to be made from the scaffold. 

I take these extreme cases as being the best illus- 
trations of what I mean ; for they give us a magnified 
reflection of our own nature. The anxieties of all of 


us, our worries, vexations, bothers, troubles, uneasy 
apprehensions and strenuous efforts are due, in perhaps 
the large majority of instances, to what other people 
will say; and we are just as foolish in this respect as 
those miserable criminals. Envy and hatred are very 
often traceable to a similar source. 

Now, it is obvious that happiness, which consists 
for the most part in peace of mind and contentment, 
would be served by nothing so much as by reducing 
this impulse of human nature within reasonable limits, 
— which would perhaps make it one fiftieth part of 
what it is now. By doing so, we should get rid of a 
thorn in the flesh which is always causing us pain. 
But it is a very difficult task, because the impulse in 
question is a natural and innate perversity of human 
nature. Tacitus says, The lust of fame is the last that 
a wise man shakes off. 1 The only way of putting an 
end to this universal folly is to see clearly that it is a 
folly ; and this may be done by recognising the fact 
that most of the opinions in men's heads are apt to be 
false, perverse, erroneous and absurd, and so in them- 
selves unworthy of any attention ; further, that other 
people's opinions can have very little real and positive 
influence upon us in most of the circumstances and 
affairs of life. Again, this opinion is generally of such 
an unfavourable character that it would worry a man 
to death to hear everything that was said of him, or 
the tone in which he was spoken of. And finally, 
among other things, we should be clear about the fact 
that honour itself has no really direct, but only an 
indirect, value. If people were generally converted 
1 Hist., iv., 6. 



from this universal folly, the result would be such an 
addition to our peace of mind and cheerfulness as at 
present seems inconceivable ; people would present a 
firmer and more confident front to the world, and 
generally behave with less embarrassment and re- 
straint. It is observable that a retired mode of life 
has an exceedingly beneficial influence on our peace of 
mind, and this is mainly because we thus escape 
having to live constantly in the sight of others, and 
pay everlasting regard to their casual opinions ; in a 
word, we are able to return upon ourselves. At the 
same time a good deal of positive misfortune might be 
avoided, which we are now drawn into by striving 
after shadows, or, to speak more correctly, by indulg- 
ing a mischievous piece of folly ; and we should con- 
sequently have more attention to give to solid realities 
and enjoy them with less interruption than at present. 
But x a ^ e7I « T< * KaAa — what is worth doing is hard to do. 

Section 2. — Pride. 

The folly of our nature which we are discussing 
puts forth three shoots, ambition, vanity and pride. 
The difference between the last two is this : pride is 
an established conviction of one's own paramount 
worth in some particular respect ; while vanity is the 
desire of rousing such a conviction in others, and it is 
generally accompanied by the secret hope of ulti- 
mately coming to the same conviction oneself. Pride 
works from within ; it is the direct appreciation of 
oneself. Vanity is the desire to arrive at this appre- 
ciation indirectly, from without. So we find that vain 

PRIDE. 69 

people are talkative, and proud, taciturn. But the 
vain person ought to be aware that the good opinion 
of others, which he strives for, may be obtained much 
more easily and certainly by persistent silence than by 
speech, even though he has very good things to say. 
Anyone who wishes to affect pride is not therefore a 
proud man ; but he will soon have to drop this, as 
every other, assumed character. 

It is only a firm, unshakeable conviction of pre- 
eminent worth and special value which makes a man 
proud in the true sense of the word, — a conviction 
which may, no doubt, be a mistaken one or rest on 
advantages which are of an adventitious and conven- 
tional character : still pride is not the less pride for 
all that, so long as it be present in real earnest. And 
since pride is thus rooted in conviction, it resembles 
every other form of knowledge in not being within 
our own arbitrament. Pride's worst foe, — I mean its 
greatest obstacle, — is vanity, which courts the ap- 
plause of the world in order to gain the necessary 
foundation for a high opinion of one's own worth, 
whilst pride is based upon a pre-existing conviction 
of it. 

It is quite true that pride is something which is 
generally found fault with, and cried down ; but 
usually, I imagine, by those who have nothing upon 
which they can pride themselves. In view of the 
impudence and foolhardiness of most people, anyone 
who possesses any kind of superiority or merit will 
do well to keep his eyes fixed on it, if he does not 
want it to be entirely forgotten; for if a man is good- 
natured enough to ignore his own privileges, and 


hob-nob with the generality of other people, as if he 
were quite on their level, they will be sure to treat 
him, frankly and candidly, as one of themselves. 
This is a piece of advice I would specially offer to 
those whose superiority is of the highest kind — real 
superiority, I mean, of a purely personal nature — 
which cannot, like orders and titles, appeal to the eye 
or ear at every moment ; as, otherwise, they will find 
that familiarity breeds contempt, or, as the Romans 
used to say, sus Minervam. Joke with a slave, and 
he'll soon show his heels, is an excellent Arabian 
proverb ; nor ought we to despise what Horace says, 

Sume superbiam 
Qucesitam meritis. 

— usurp the fame }^ou have deserved. No doubt, 
when modesty was ma le a virtue, it was a very ad- 
vantageous thing for the fools ; for everybody is 
expected to speak of himself as if he were one. This 
is levelling down indeed ! for it comes to look as if 
there were nothing but fools in the world. 

The cheapest sort of pride is national pride ; for if 
a man is proud of his own nation, it argues that he 
has no qualities of his own of which he can be proud; 
otherwise, he would not have recourse to those which 
he shares with so many millions of his fellow-men. 
The man who is endowed with important personal 
qualities will be only too ready to see clearly in what 
respects his own nation falls short, since their failings 
will be constantly before his eyes. But every miser- 
able fool who has nothing at all of which he can be 

PRIDE. 71 

proud adopts, as a last resource, pride in the nation 
to which he belongs ; he is ready and glad to defer. d 
all its faults and follies tooth and nail, thus re-im- 
bursing himself for his own inferiority. For example, 
if you speak of the stupid and degrading bigotry of 
the English nation with the contempt it deserves, you 
will hardly find one Englishman in fifty to agree with 
you ; but if there should be one, he will generally 
happen to be an intelligent man. 

The Germans have no national pride, which shows 
how honest they are, as everybody knows ! and how 
dishonest are those who, by a piece of ridiculous 
affectation, pretend that they are proud of their coun- 
try — the Deutsche Briider and the demagogues who 
flatter the mob in order to mislead it. I have heard 
it said that gunpowder was invented by a German. 
I doubt it. Lichtenberg asks, Why is it that a man 
who is not a German does not care about pretending 
that he is one; and that if he makes any pretence 
at all, it is to be a Frenchman or an Englishman ? 1 

However that may be, individuality is a far more 
important thing than nationality, and in any given 
man deserves a thousand-fold more consideration. 
And since you cannot speak of national character 
without referring to large masses of people, it is im- 
possible to be loud in your praises and at the same 
time honest. National character is only another 

1 Translators Note. It should be remembered that these 
remarks were -written in the earlier part of the present century, 
and that a German philosopher now-a-days, even though he 
were as apt to say bitter things as Schopenhauer, could hardly 
write in a similar strain. 


name for the particular form which the littleness, 
perversity and baseness of mankind take in every 
country. If we become disgusted with one, we praise 
another, until we get disgusted with this too. Ever} 7 
nation mocks at other nations, and all are right. 

The contents of this chapter, which treats, as 1 
have said, of what we represent in the world, or what 
we are in the eyes of others, may be further distri- 
buted under three heads : honour, rank and fame. 

Section 3. — Rank. 

Let us take rank first, as it may be dismissed in a 
few words, although it plays an important part in 
the eyes of the masses and of the philistines, and is a 
most useful wheel in the machinery of the State. 

It has a purely conventional value. Strictly 
speaking, it is a sham ; its method is to exact an 
artificial respect, and, as a matter of fact, the whole 
thing is a mere farce. 

Orders, it may be said, are bills of exchange drawn 
on public opinion, and the measure of their value is 
the credit of the drawer. Of course, as a substitute 
for pensions, they save the State a good deal of 
money ; and, besides, they serve a very useful purpose, 
if they are distributed with discrimination and judg- 
ment. For people in general have eyes and ears, it is 
true ; but not much else, very little judgment indeed, 
or even memory. There are many services to the 
State quite beyond the range of their understanding ; 
others, again, are appreciated and made much of for a 
time, and then soon forgotten. It seems to me, there- 



fore, very proper, that a cross or a star should 
proclaim to the mass of people always and every- 
where, This man is not like you; he has done 
something. But orders lose their value when they 
are distributed unjustly, or without due selection, or 
in too great numbers : a prince should be as careful in 
conferring them as a man of business is in signing 
a bill. It is a pleonasm to inscribe on any order for 
distinguished service ; for every order ought to be for 
distinguished service. That stands to reason. 

Section 4- — Honour. 

Honour is a much larger question than rank, and 
more difficult to discuss. Let us begin by trying to 
define it. 

If I were to say Honour is external conscience, 
and conscience is inward honour, no doubt a good 
many people would assent ; but there would be more 
show than reality about such a definition, and it 
would hardly go to the root of the matter. I prefer 
to say, Honour is, on its objective side, other people's 
v opinion of what we are worth; on its subjective side, 
it is the respect we pay to this opinion. From the 
latter point of view, to be a man of honour is to 
exercise what is often a very wholesome, but by no 
means a purely moral, influence. 

The feelings of honour and shame exist in every 
man who is not utterly depraved, and honour is 
everywhere recognised as something particularly 
valuable. The reason of this is as follows. By and 
in himself a man can accomplish very little ; he 

74 The wisdom of life. 

is like Robinson Crusoe on a desert island. It is only 
in society that a man's powers can be called into full 
activity. He very soon finds this out when his 
consciousness begins to develop, and there arises in 
him the desire to be looked upon as a useful member 
of society, as one, that is, who is capable of playing 
his part as a man — pro parte virili — thereby acquir- 
ing a right to the benefits of social life. Now, to be 
a useful member of society, one must do two things : 
firstly, what everyone is expected to do everywhere ; 
and, secondly, what one's own particular position in the 
world demands and requires. 

But a man soon discovers that everything de- 
pends upon his being useful, not in his own opinion, 
but in the opinion of others ; and so he tries his best 
to make that favourable impression upon the world, 
to which he attaches such a high value. Hence, this 
primitive and innate characteristic of human nature, 
which is called the feeling of honour, or, under 
another aspect, the feeling of shame — verecundia. It 
is this which brings a blush to his cheek at the 
thought of having suddenly to fall in the estimation 
of others, even when he knows that he is innocent, 
nay, even if his remissness extends to no absolute 
obligation, but only to one which he has taken upon 
himself of his own free will. Conversely, nothing in 
life gives a man so much courage as the attainment 
or renewal of the conviction that other people regard 
him with favour ; because it means that everyone 
joins to give him help and protection, which is an 
infinitely stronger bulwark against the ills of life 
than anything he can do himself. 



The variety of relations in which a man can stand 
to other people so as to obtain their confidence, that is, 
their good opinion, gives rise to a distinction between 
several kinds of honour, resting chiefly on the 
different bearings that meum may take to tuum ; or, 
again, on the performance of various pledges; or 
finally, on the relation of the sexes. Hence, there are 
three main kinds of honour, each of which takes 
various forms— civic honour, official honour, and 
sexual honour. 

Civic honour has the widest sphere of all. It con- 
sists in the assumption that we shall pay uncondi- 
tional respect to the rights of others, and, therefore, 
never use any unjust or unlawful means of getting 
what we want. It is the condition of all peaceable 
intercourse between man and man ; and it is destroyed 
by anything that openly and manifestly militates 
against this peaceable intercourse, anything, accord- 
ingly, which entails punishment at the hands of the 
law, always supposing that the punishment is a just 


The ultimate foundation of honour is the conviction 
that moral character is unalterable: a single bad 
action implies that future actions of the same kind 
will, under similar circumstances, also be bad. This 
is well expressed by the English use of the word 
character as meaning credit, reputation, honour. 
Hence honour, once lost, can never be recovered ; un- 
less the loss rested on some mistake, such as may occur 
if a man is slandered or his actions viewed in a false 
light. So the law provides remedies against slander, 
libel, and even insult; for insult, though it amount to 


no more than mere abuse, is a kind of summary slander 
with a suppression of the reasons. What I mean may 
be well put in the Greek phrase — not quoted from 

any author — &mv rj XotSopta Sia/SoXr) (rvvrofxbs. It is 

true that if a man abuses another, he is simply show- 
ing that he has no real or true causes of complaint 
against him ; as, otherwise, he would bring these 
forward as the premises, and rely upon his hearers 
to draw the conclusion themselves ; instead of which, 
he gives the conclusion and leaves out the premises, 
trusting that people will suppose that he has done so 
only for the sake of being brief. 

Civic honour draws its existence and name from 
the middle classes ; but it applies equally to all, not 
excepting the highest. No man can disregard it, and 
it is a very serious thing, of which every one should 
be careful not to make light. The man who breaks 
confidence has for ever forfeited confidence, whatever 
he may do, and whoever he may be ; and the bitter 
consequences of the loss of confidence can never be 

There is a sense in which honour may be said to 
have a negative character in opposition to the positive 
character of fame. For honour is not the opinion 
people have of particular qualities which a man may 
happen to possess exclusively : it is rather the opinion 
they have of the qualities which a man may be ex- 
pected to exhibit, and to which he should not prove 
false. Honour, therefore, means that a man is not 
exceptional; fame, that he is. Fame is something 
/which must be won ; honour, only something which 
[must not be lost. The absence of fame is obscurity, 



which is only a negative ; but loss of honour is shame, 
which is a positive quality. This negative character 
of honour must not be confused with any thing passive ; 
for honour is above all things active in its working. It 
is the only quality which proceeds directly from the 
man who exhibits it : it is concerned entirely with 
what he does and leaves undone, and has nothing to 
do with the actions of others or the obstacles they 
place in his way. It is something entirely in our own 
power — twv £$rnio)v. This distinction, as we shall see 
presently, marks off true honour from the sham honour 
of chivalry. 

Slander is the only weapon by which honour can be 
attacked from without ; and the only way to repel 
the attack is to confute the slander with the proper 
amount of publicity, and a due unmasking of him who 
utters it. 

The reason why respect is paid to age is that old 
people have necessarily shown in the course of their 
lives whether or not they have been able to maintain 
their honour unblemished ; while that of young people 
has not yet been put to the proof, though they are 
credited with the possession of it. For neither length 
of years, — equalled, as it is, and even excelled, in the 
case of some of the lower animals, — nor, again, experi- 
ence, which is only a closer knowledge of the world's 
ways, can be any sufficient reason for the respect 
which the young are everywhere required to show 
towards the old : for if it were merely a matter of 
years, the weakness which attends on age would call 
rather for consideration than for respect. It is, how- 
ever, a remarkable fact that white hair always com- 



mands reverence — a reverence really innate and in- 
stinctive. Wrinkles — a much surer sign of old age — 
command no reverence at all : you never hear any one 
speak of venerable wrinkles ; but venerable white hair 
is a common expression. 

Honour has only an indirect value. For, as I ex- 
plained at the beginning of this chapter, what other 
people think of us, if it affects us at all, can affect us 
only in so far as it governs their behaviour towards 
us, and only just so long as we live with, or have to 
do with, them. But it is to society alone that we owe 
that safety which we and our possessions enjoy in a 
state of civilisation ; in all we do we need the help of 
others, and they, in their turn, must have confidence 
in us before they can have anything to do with us. 
Accordingly, their opinion of us is, indirectly, a matter 
of great importance ; though I cannot see how it can 
have a direct or immediate value. This is an opinion 
also held by Cicero, I quite agree, he writes, ivith 
what Ghrysippus and Diogenes used to say, that a 
good reputation is not worth raising a finger to obtain, 
if it were not that it is so useful. 1 This truth has 
been insisted upon at great length by Helvetius in his 
chief work Be VEsprit, 2 the conclusion of which is 
that we love esteem not for its own sake, but solely for 
the advantages which it brings. And as the means 
can never be more than the end, that saying, of which 
so much is made, Honour is dearer than life itself is, 
as I have remarked, a very exaggerated statement. 
So much, then, for civic honour. 

1 Definibus iii., 17. 

2 Disc: iii., 13. 


Official honour is the general opinion of other 
people that a man who fills any office really has the 
necessary qualities for the proper discharge of all the 
duties which appertain to it. The greater and more 
important the duties a man has to discharge in the 
State, and the higher and more influential the office 
which he fills, the stronger must be the opinion which 
people have of the moral and intellectual qualities 
which render him fit for his post. Therefore, the 
higher his position, the greater must be the degree of 
honour paid to him, expressed, as it is, in titles, orders 
and the generally subservient behaviour of others 
towards him. As a rule, a man's official rank implies 
the particular degree of honour which ought to be 
paid to him, however much this degree may be modi- 
fied by the capacity of the masses to form any notion 
of its importance. Still, as a matter of fact, greater 
honour is paid to a man who fulfils special duties 
than to the common citizen, whose honour mainly 
consists in keeping clear of dishonour. 

Official honour demands, further, that the man who 
occupies an office must maintain respect for it, for the 
sake both of his colleagues and of those who will come 
after him. This respect an official can maintain by a 
proper observance of his duties, and by repelling any 
attack that may be made upon the office itself or 
upon its occupant : he must not, for instance, pass 
over unheeded any statement to the effect that the 
duties of the office are not properly discharged, or that 
the office itself does not conduce to the public welfare. 
He must prove the unwarrantable nature of such 
attacks by enforcing the legal penalty for them. 



Subordinate to the honour of official personages 
comes that of those who serve the State in any other 
capacity, as doctors, lawyers, teachers, anyone, in 
short, who by graduating in any subject, or by any 
other public declaration that he is qualified to exer- 
cise some special skill, claims to practise it; in a 
word, the honour of all those who take any 
public pledges whatever. Under this head comes 
military honour, in the true sense of the word, the 
opinion that people who have bound themselves to 
defend their country really possess the requisite 
qualities which will enable them to do so, especially 
courage, personal bravery and strength, and that they 
are perfectly ready to defend their country to the 
death, and never and under no circumstances desert 
the flag to which they have once sworn allegiance. I 
have here taken official honour in a wider sense than 
that in which it is generally used, namely, the respect 
due by citizens to an office itself. 

In treating of sexual honour and the principles on 
which it rests, a little more attention and analysis are 
necessary ; and what I shall say will support my con- 
tention that all honour really rests upon a utilitarian 
basis. There are two natural divisions of the subject 
— the honour of women and the honour of men, in 
either side issuing in a well-understood esprit de corps. 
The former is by far the more important of the two, 
because the most essential feature in woman's life is 
her relation to man. 

Female honour is the general opinion in regard to a 
girl that she is pure, and in regard to a wife that she 
is faithful. The importance of this opinion rests upon 


the following considerations. Women depend upon 
men in all the relations of life ; men upon women, it 
might be said, in one only. So an arrangement is 
made for mutual interdependence — man undertaking 
responsibility for all woman's needs and also for the 
children that spring from their union — an arrange- 
ment on which is based the welfare of the whole 
female race. To carry out this plan, women have to 
band together with a show of esprit cle corps, and 
present one undivided front to their common enemy, 
man, — who possesses all the good things of the earth, in 
virtue of his superior physical and intellectual power, — 
in order to lay siege to and conquer him, and so get 
possession of him and a share of those good things. 
To this end the honour of all women depends upon 
the enforcement of the rule that no woman should give 
herself to a man except in marriage, in order that 
every man may be forced, as it were, to surrender and 
ally himself with a woman ; by this arrangement pro- 
vision is made for the whole of the female race. This 
is a result, however, which can be obtained only by a 
strict observance of the rule ; and, accordingly, women 
everywhere show true esprit de corps in carefully in- 
sisting upon its maintenance. Any girl who commits 
a breach of the rule betrays the whole female race, 
because its welfare would be destroyed if every woman 
were to do likewise ; so she is cast out with shame as 
one who has lost her honour. No woman will have 
anything more to do with her ; she is avoided like 
the plague. The same doom is awarded to a woman 
who breaks the marriage tie ; for in so doing she is 
false to the terms upon which the man capitulated; 


and as her conduct is such as to frighten other men 
from making a similar surrender, it imperils the wel- 
fare of all her sisters. Nay more ; this deception and 
coarse breach of troth is a crime punishable by the 
loss, not only of personal, but also of civic honour. 
This is why we minimise the shame of a girl, but not 
of a wife ; because, in the former case, marriage can 
restore honour, while in the latter, no atonement can 
be made for the breach of contract. 

Once this esprit de corps is acknowledged to be the 
foundation of female honour, and is seen to be a 
wholesome, nay, a necessary arrangement, as at bottom 
a matter of prudence and interest, its extreme import- 
ance for the welfare of women will be recognised. But 
it does not possess anything more than a relative 
value. It is no absolute end, lying beyond all other 
aims of existence and valued above life itself. In 
this view, there will be nothing to applaud in the 
forced and extravagant conduct of a Lucretia or a 
Virginius — conduct which can easily degenerate into 
tragic farce, and produce a terrible feeling of revulsion. 
The conclusion of Emilia Galotti, for instance, makes 
one leave the theatre completely ill at ease ; and, on the 
other hand, all the rules of female honour cannot pre- 
vent a certain sympathy with Clara in Egmont. To 
carry this principle of female honour too far is to 
forget the end in thinking of the means — and this is 
just what people often do; for such exaggeration 
suggests that the value of sexual honour is absolute ; 
while the truth is that it is more relative than any 
other kind. One might go so far as to say that its 
value is purely conventional, when one sees from 


Thomasius how in all ages and countries, up to the 
time of the Reformation, irregularities were permitted 
and recognised by law, with no derogation to female 
honour, — not to speak of the temple of Mylitta at 
Babylon. 1 

There are also, of course, certain circumstances in 
civil life which make external forms of marriage 
impossible, especially in Catholic countries, where 
there is no such thing as divorce. Ruling princes 
everywhere, would, in my opinion, do much better, 
from a moral point of view, to dispense with forms 
altogether rather than contract a morganatic mar- 
riage, the descendants of which might raise claims to 
the throne if the legitimate stock happened to die 
out ; so that there is a possibility, though, perhaps, a 
remote one, that a morganatic marriage might pro- 
duce a civil war. And, besides, such a marriage, 
concluded in defiance of all outward ceremony, is a 
concession made to women and priests — two classes of 
persons to whom one should be most careful to give 
as little tether as possible. It is further to be re- 
marked that every man in a country can marry the 
woman of his choice, except one poor individual, 
namely, the prince. His hand belongs to his country, 
and can bo given in marriage only for reasons of 
State, that is, for the good of the country. Still, for 
all that, he is a man; and, as a man, he likes to follow 
whither his heart leads, It is an unjust, ungrateful 
and priggish thing to forbid, or to desire to forbid, a 
prince from following his inclinations in this matter ; 
of course, as long as the lady has no influence upon 
1 Perodotus, i. 199. 


the Government of the country. From her point of 
view she occupies an exceptional position, and does 
not come under the ordinary rules of sexual honour ; 
for she has merely given herself to a man who loves 
her, and whom she loves but cannot marry. And in 
general, the fact that the principle of female honour 
has no origin in nature, is shown by the many bloody 
sacrifices which have been offered to it, — the murder 
of children and the mother's suicide. No doubt a girl 
who contravenes the code commits a breach of faith 
against her whole sex ; but this faith is one which is 
only secretly taken for granted, and not sworn to. 
And since, in most cases, her own prospects suffer 
most immediately, her folly is infinitely greater than 
her crime. 

The corresponding virtue in men is a product of 
the one I have been discussing. It is their esprit de 
corps, which demands that, when a man has made that 
surrender of himself in marriage which is so advan- 
tageous to his conqueror, he shall take care that the 
terms of the treaty are maintained; both in order 
that the agreement itself may lose none of its force 
by the permission of any laxity in its observance, and 
that men, having given up everything, may, at least, 
be assured of their bargain, namely, exclusive posses- 
sion. Accordingly, it is part of a man's honour to 
resent a breach of the marriage tie on the part of his 
wife, and to punish it, at the very least by separating 
from her. If he condones the offence, his fellow-men 
cry shame upon him ; but the shame in this case is 
not nearly so foul as that of the woman who has lost 
her honour ; the stain is by no means of so deep a 


dye — levioris notae macula; — because a man's relation 
to woman is subordinate to many other and more 
important affairs in his life. The two great dramatic 
poets of modern times have each taken man's honour 
as the theme of two plays ; Shakespeare in Othello 
and The Winter's Tale, and Calderon in El medico de 
su honra, (the Physician of his Honour), and A secreto 
agravio secreta venganza, (for Secret Insult Secret 
Vengeance). It should be said, however, that honour 
demands the punishment of the wife only ; to punish 
her paramour too, is a work of supererogation. This 
confirms the view I have taken, that a man's honour 
originates in esprit de corps. 

The kind of honour which I have been discussing 
hitherto has always existed in its various forms and 
principles amongst all nations and at all times ; 
although the history of female honour shows that its 
principles have undergone certain local modifications 
at different periods. But there is another species of 
honour which differs from this entirely, a species of 
honour of which the Greeks and Romans had no con- 
ception, and up to this day it is perfectly unknown 
amongst Chinese, Hindoos or Mohammedans. It is a 
kind of honour which arose only in the Middle Age, 
and is indigenous only to Christian Europe, nay, only 
to an extremely small portion of the population, that 
is to say, the higher classes of society and those who 
ape them. It is knightly honour, or point d'honneur. 
Its principles are quite different from those which 
underlie the kind of honour I have been treating 
until now, and in some respects are even opposed to 
them. The sort I am referring to produces the 


cavalier; while the other kind creates the man of 
honour. As this is so, I shall proceed to give an 
explanation of its principles, as a kind of code or 
mirror of knightly courtesy. 

(1.) To begin with, honour of this sort consists, not 
in other people's opinion of what we are worth, but 
wholly and entirely in whether they express it or not, 
no matter whether they really have any opinion at all, 
let alone whether they know of reasons for having 
one. Other people may entertain the worst opinion 
of us in consequence of what we do, and may despise 
us as much as they like ; so long as no one dares to 
give expression to his opinion, our honour remains 
untarnished. So if our actions and qualities compel 
the highest respect from other people, and they have 
no option but to give this respect, — as soon as anyone, 
no matter how wicked or foolish he may be, utters 
something depreciatory of us, our honour is offended, 
nay, gone for ever, unless we can manage to restore it 
A superfluous proof of what I say, namely, that 
knightly honour depends, not upon what people think, 
but upon what they say, is furnished by the fact that 
insults can be withdrawn, or, if necessary, form the 
subject of an apology, which makes them as though 
they had never been uttered. Whether the opinion 
which underlay the expression has also been rectified, 
and why the expression should ever have been used, 
are questions which are perfectly unimportant : so 
long as the statement is withdrawn, all is well. The 
truth is that conduct of this kind aims, not at earning 
respect, but at extorting it. 

(2.) In the second place, this sort of honour rests, 


not on what a man does, but on what he suffers, the 
obstacles he encounters ; differing from the honour 
which prevails in all else, in consisting, not in what 
he says or does himself, but in what another man says 
or does. His honour is thus at the mercy of every 
man who can talk it away on the tip of his tongue ; 
and if he attacks it, in a moment it is gone for ever, — 
unless the man who is attacked manages to wrest it 
back again by a process which I shall mention pre- 
sently, a process which involves danger to his life, 
health, freedom, property and peace of mind. A 
man's whole conduct may be in accordance with th^ 
most righteous and noble principles, his spirit may be 
the purest that ever breathed, his intellect of the very 
highest order ; and yet his honour may disappear the 
moment that anyone is pleased to insult him, anyone 
at all who has not offended against this code of honour 
himself, let him be the most worthless rascal or the 
most stupid beast, an idler, gambler, debtor, a man, in 
short, of no account at all. It is usually this sort of 
fellow who likes to insult people ; for, as Seneca 1 
rightly remarks, ut quisque contemtissimus et ludibrio 
est, ita sol'iitissimce iinguce est — the more contemptible 
and ridiculous a man is, the readier he is with his 
tongue. His insults are most likely to be directed 
against the very kind of man I have described, because 
people of different tastes can never be friends, and the 
sight of pre-eminent merit is apt to raise the secret ire 
of a ne'er-do-well. What Goethe says in the West- 
ostlicher Divan is quite true, that it is useless to com- 
plain against your enemies ; for they can never 
1 De Constantia, 11. 


become your friends, if your whole being is a standing 
reproach to them : — 

Was Hagst du iiber Feinde ? 
Sollten fiolcheje werden Freunde 
Denen das Wesen, wie du bist, 
Ira stillen ein euriger Vorwurf ist ? 

It is obvious that people of this worthless descrip- 
tion have good cause to be thankful to the principle 
of honour, because it puts them on a level with people 
who in every other respect stand far above them. If 
a fellow likes to insult any one, attribute to him, for 
example, some bad quality, this is taken prima facie 
as a well-founded opinion, true in fact ; a decree, as it 
were, with all the force of law ; nay, if it is not at 
once wiped out in blood, it is a judgment which 
holds good and valid to all time. In other words, the 
man who is insulted remains — in the eyes of all 
honourable people — what the man who uttered the 
insult — even though he were the greatest wretch on 
earth — was pleased to call him; for he h&s put up 
with the insult — the technical term, I believe. 
Accordingly, all honourable people will have nothing 
more to do with him, and treat him like a leper, and, 
it may be, refuse to go into any company where he 
may be found, and so on. 

This wise proceeding may, I think, be traced back 
to the fact that in the Middle Age, up to the fifteenth 
century, it was not the accuser in any criminal 
process who had to prove the guilt of the accused, but 
the accused who had to prove his innocence. 1 This 

1 See C. G. von Wachter's Beitrage zur deutschen GeschicJde^ 
especially the chapter on criminal law. 


he could do by swearing he was not guilty ; and his 
backers — consacramentales — had to come and swear 
that in their opinion he was incapable of perjury. If 
he could find no one to help him in this way, or the 
accuser took objection to his backers, recourse was 
had to trial by the Judgment of God, which generally 
meant a duel. For the accused was now in disgrace, 1 
and had to clear himself. Here, then, is the origin of 
the notion of disgrace, and of that whole system 
which prevails now-a-days amongst honourable people, 
— only that the oath is omitted. This is also the 
explanation of that deep feeling of indignation which 
honourable people are called upon to show if they are 
given the lie ; it is a reproach which they say must 
be wiped out in blood. It seldom comes to this 
pass, however, though lies are of common occur- 
rence ; but in England, more than elsewhere, it is a 
superstition which has taken very deep root. As a 
matter of order, a man who threatens to kill another 
for telling a lie should never have told one himself. 
The fact is, that the criminal trial of the Middle Age 
also admitted of a shorter form. In reply to the charge, 
the accused answered: That is a lie; whereupon it was 
left to be decided by the Judgment of God. Hence, 
the code of knightly honour prescribes that, when the 
lie is given, an appeal to arms follows as a matter of 
course. So much, then, for the theory of insult. 
But there is something even worse than insult, 

1 Translatcn^s Note. It is true that this expression has 
another and special meaning in the technical terminology of 
Chivalry, but it is the nearest English equivalent which I can find 
for the German— ein Bescholtetier. 


something so dreadful that I must beg pardon of all 
honourable people for so much as mentioning it in 
this code of knightly honour ; for I know they will 
shiver, and their hair will stand on end, at the very 
thought of it — the summuwn malum, the greatest evil 
on earth, worse than death and damnation. A man 
may give another — korribile dictu! — a slap or a blow. 
This is such an awful thing, and so utterly fatal to all 
honour, that, while any other species of insult may be 
healed by blood-letting, this can be cured only by the 
coup- de- grace. 

(3.) In the third place, this kind of honour has 
absolutely nothing to do with what a man may be in 
and for himself ; or, again, with the question whether 
his moral character can ever become better or worse, 
and ail such pedantic inquiries. If your honour 
happens to be attacked, or to all appearances gone, it 
can very soon be restored in its entirety if you are 
only quick enough in having recourse to the one 
universal remedy — a duel. But if the aggressor does 
not belong to the classes which recognise the code of 
knightly honour, or has himself once offended against 
it, there is a safer way of meeting any attack upon 
your honour, whether it consists in blows, or merely 
in words. If you are armed, you can strike down 
your opponent on the spot, or perhaps an hour later. 
This will restore your honour. 

But if you wish to avoid such an extreme step, from 
fear of any unpleasant consequences arising therefrom, 
or from uncertainty as to whether the aggressor is 
subject to the laws of knightly honour or not, there is 
another means of making your position good, namely, 

s HONOUR. 91 

the Avantage. This consists in returning rudeness 
with still greater rudeness ; and if insults are no use, 
you can try a blow, which forms a sort of climax in 
the redemption of your honour ; for instance, a box 
on the ear may be cured by a blow with a stick, and 
a blow with a stick by a thrashing with a horsewhip ; 
and, as the approved remedy for this last, some people 
recommend you to spit at your opponent. 1 If all 
these means are of no avail, you must not shrink from 
drawing blood. And the reason for these methods of 
wiping out insult is, in this code, as follows : 

(4.) To receive an insult is disgraceful ; to give one, 
honourable. Let me take an example. My opponent 
has truth, right and reason on his side. Very well. 
I insult him. Thereupon right and honour leave him 
and come to me, and, for the time being, he has lost 
them — until he gets them back, not by the exercise of 
right or reason, but by shooting and sticking me. 
Accordingly, rudeness is a quality which, in point of 
honour, is a substitute for any other and outweighs 
them all. The rudest is always right. What more 
do you want ? However stupid, bad or wicked a man 
may have been, if he is only rude into the bargain, he 
condones and legitimises all his faults. If in any 
discussion or conversation, another man shows more 
knowledge, greater love of truth, a sounder judgment, 
better understanding than we, or generally exhibits 
intellectual qualities which cast ours into the shade, 

1 Translator's Note. It must be remembered that Schopen- 
hauer is here describing, or perhaps caricaturing, the manners 
and customs of the German aristocracy of half a century ago. 
Now, of course, nous avons change tout cela I 


we can at once annul his superiority and our own 
shallowness, and in our turn be superior to him, by 
being insulting and offensive. For rudeness is better 
'than any argument ; it totally eclipses intellect. If 
our opponent does not care for our mode of attack, 
and will not answer still more rudely, so as to plunge 
us into the ignoble rivalry of the Avantage, we 
are the victors and honour is on our side. Truth, 
knowledge, understanding, intellect, wit, must beat 
a retreat and leave the field to this almighty 

Honourable people immediately make a show of 
mounting their war-horse, if anyone utters an opinion 
adverse to theirs, or shows more intelligence than they 
can muster ; and if in any controversy they are at 
a loss for a reply, they look about for some weapon of 
rudeness, which will serve as well and come readier to 
hand ; so they retire masters of the position. It must 
now be obvious that people are quite right in applaud- 
ing this principle of honour as having ennobled the 
tone of society. This principle springs from another, 
which forms the heart and soul of the entire code. 

(5.) Fifthly, the code implies that the highest court 
to which a man can appeal in any differences he may 
have with another on a point of honour is the court 
of physical force, that is, of brutality. Every piece of 
rudeness is, strictly speaking, an appeal to brutality ; 
for it is a declaration that intellectual strength and 
moral insight are incompetent to decide, and that the 
battle must be fought out by physical force — a 
struggle which, in the case of man, whom Franklin 
defines as a tool-making animal, is decided by the 


weapons peculiar to the species ; and the decision is 
irrevocable. This is the well-known principle of the 
right of might — irony, of course, like the wit of a fool, 
a parallel phrase. The honour of a knight may be 
called the glory of might. 

(6.) Lastly, if, as we saw above, civic honour is very 
scrupulous in the matter of meum and tuum, paying 
great respect to obligations and a promise once made, 
the code we are here discussing displays, on the other 
hand, the noblest liberality. There is only one word 
which may not be broken, the word of honour — upon 
my honour, as people say — the presumption being, of 
course, that every other form of promise may be broken. 
Nay, if the worst comes to the worst, it is easy to break 
even one's word of honour, and still remain honour- 
able — again by adopting that universal remedy, the 
duel, and fighting with those who maintain that we 
pledged our word. Further, there is one debt, and 
one alone, that under no circumstances must be left 
unpaid — a gambling debt, which has accordingly been 
called a debt of honour. In all other kinds of debt you 
may cheat Jews and Christians are much as you 
like; and your knightly honour remains without a 

The unprejudiced reader will see at once that such 
a strange, savage and ridiculous code of honour as 
this has no foundation in human nature, nor any 
warrant in a healthy view of human affairs. The 
extremely narrow sphere of its operation serves only 
to intensify the feeling, which is exclusively confined 
to Europe since the Middle Age, and then only to the 
upper classes, officers and soldiei's, and people who 


imitate them. Neither Greeks nor Romans knew 
anything of this code of honour or of its principles ; 
nor the highly civilised nations of Asia, ancient or 
modern. Amongst them no other kind of honour is 
recognised but that which I discussed first, in virtue 
of which a man is what he shows himself to be by his 
actions, not what any wagging tongue is pleased to 
say of him. They thought that what a man said or 
did might perhaps affect his own honour, but not any 
other man's. To them, a blow was but a blow — and 
any horse or donkey could give a harder one — a blow 
which under certain circumstances might make a man 
angry and demand immediate vengeance ; but it had 
nothing to do with honour. No one kept account of 
blows or insulting words, or of the satisfaction which 
was demanded or omitted to be demanded. Yet in 
personal bravery and contempt of death, the ancients 
were certainly not inferior to the nations of Christian 
Europe, The Greeks and Romans were thorough 
heroes, if you like* but they knew nothing about 
point d'honneur, If they had any idea of a duel, it 
was totally unconnected with the life of the nobles ; 
it was merely the exhibition of mercenary gladiators, 
slaves devoted to slaughter, condemned criminals, 
who, alternately with wild beasts, were set to butcher 
one another to make a Roman holiday, When Ghris^ 
tianity was introduced, gladiatorial shows were done 
away with, and their place taken, in Christian times, 
by the duel, which was a way of settling difficulties 
by the Judgment of God. If the gladiatorial fight was 
a cruel sacrifice to the prevailing desire for great 
spectacles, duelling is a cruel sacrifice to existing pre- 


judices — a sacrifice, not of criminals, slaves and 
prisoners, but of the noble and the free. 1 

There are a great many traits in the character of 
the ancients which show that they were entirely free 
from these prejudices. When, for instance, Marius 
was summoned to a duel by a Teutonic chief, he re- 
turned answer to the effect that, if the chief were 
tired of his life, he might go and hang himself ; at 
the same time he offered him a veteran gladiator for 
a round or two. Plutarch relates in his life of The- 
mistocles that Eurybiades, who was in command of 
the fleet, once raised his stick to strike him ; where- 
upon Themistocles, instead of drawing his sword, 
simply said: Strike, but hear one. How sorry the 
reader must be, if he is an honourable man, to find 
that we have no information that the Athenian 
officers refused in a body to serve any longer under 
Themistocles, if he acted like that ! There is a modern 
French writer who declares that if anyone considers 
Demosthenes a man of honour, his ignorance will ex- 
cite a smile of pity ; and that Cicero was not a man 
of honour either ! 2 In a certain passage in Plato's 
Laws, 3 the philosopher speaks at length of cu'/aa or 
assault, showing us clearly enough that the ancients 
had no notion of any feeling of honour in connection 
with such matters. Socrates' frequent discussions 
were often followed by his being severely handled, 

1 Translator's Note. These and other remarks on duelling 
will no doubt wear a belated look to English readers ; but they 
are hardly yet antiquated for most parts of the Continent. 

2 Soirees litteraires : par C. Durand. Rouen, 1828. 
s £k, IX. 



and he bore it all mildly. Once, for instance, when 
somebody kicked him, the patience with which he 
took the insult surprised one of his friends. Do you 
think, said Socrates, that if an ass happened to kick me, 
I should resent it ? 1 On another occasion, when he 
was asked, Has not that fellow abused and insulted you ? 
No, was his answer, what he says is not addressed to 
me. 2 Stobaeus has preserved a long passage from 
Musonius, from which we can see how the ancients 
treated insults. They knew no other form of satis- 
faction than that which the law provided, and wise 
people despised even this. If a Greek received a box 
on the ear, he could get satisfaction by the aid of the 
law ; as is evident from Plato's Gorgias, where 
Socrates' opinion may be found. The same thing 
may be seen in the account given by Gellius of one 
Lucius Veratius, who had the audacity to give some 
Roman citizens whom he met on the road a box on 
the ear, without any provocation whatever; but to avoid 
any ulterior consequences, he told a slave to bring a 
bag of small money, and on the spot paid the trivial 
legal penalty to the men whom he had astonished by 
his conduct. 

Crates, the celebrated Cynic philosopher, got such 
a box on the ear from Nicodromus, the musician, that 
his face swelled up and became black and blue; 
whereupon he put a label on his forehead, with the 
inscription, Nicodromus fecit, which brought much 
disgrace to the fluteplayer who had committed such 
a piece of brutality upon the man whom all Athens 

1 Diogenes Laertius, ii., 21. 
3 Ibid 3G. 


honoured as a household god. 1 And in a letter to 
Melesippus, Diogenes of Sinope tells us that he got a 
beating from the drunken sons of the Athenians ; but 
he adds that it was a matter of no importance. 2 And 
Seneca devotes the last few chapters of his Be Con- 
stantia to a lengthy discussion on insult — contumelia; 
in order to show that a wise man will take no notice 
of it. In Chapter XIV. he says, What shall a wise 
man do, if he i$ given a blow ? What Cato did, when 
sortie one struolc him on the mouth ; — not fire up or 
avenge the insult, or even return the blow, but simply 
ignore it. 

Yes, you say, but these men were philosophers. — And 
you are fools, eh ? Precisely. 

It is clear that the whole code of knightly honour 
was utterly unknown to the ancients ; for the simple 
reason that they always took a natural and unpre- 
judiced view of human affairs, and did not allow 
themselves to be influenced by any such vicious and 
abominable folly. A blow in the face was to them a 
blow and nothing more, a trivial physical injury ; 
whereas the moderns make a catastrophe out of it, a 
theme for a tragedy ; as, for instance, in the Cid of 
Corneille, or in a recent German comedy of middle- 
class life, called The Power of Circumstance, which 
should have been entitled The Power of Prejudice. If a 
member of the National Assembly at Paris got a blow 
on the ear, it would resound from one end of Europe 
to the other. The examples which I have given of 
ihe way in which such an occurrence would have been 

1 Diogenes Laertius, vi. 87, and Apul : Flor : p. 126. 
* Cf. Casaubon's Note, ad Diog. Laert., vi. 33. 


treated in classic times may not suit the ideas of 
honourable 'people; so let me recommend to their 
notice, as a kind of antidote, the story of Monsieur 
Desglands in Diderot's masterpiece, Jacques le fata- 
liste. It is an excellent specimen of modern knightly 
honour, which, no doubt, they will find enjoyable and 
edifying. 1 

From what I have said it must be quite evident 
that the principle of knightly honour has no essential 
and spontaneous origin in human nature. It is an 
artificial product, and its source is not hard to find. 
Its existence obviously dates from the time when 
people used their fists more than their heads, when 
priestcraft had enchained the human intellect, the 
much bepraised Middle Age, with its system of 
chivalry. That was the time when people let the 

1 Translator's Note, The story to which Schopenhauer here 
refers is briefly as follows : Two gentlemen, one of whom was 
named Desglands, were paying court to the same lady. As 
they sat at table side by side, with the lady opposite, Desglands 
did his best to charm her with his conversation ; but she pre- 
tended not to hear him, and kept looking at his rival. In the 
agony of jealousy, Desglands, as he was holding a fresh egg in his 
hand, involuntarily crushed it ; the shell broke, and its contents 
bespattered his rival's face. Seeing him raise his hand, Des- 
glands seized it and whispered : Sir, I take it as given. The 
next day Desglands appeared with a large piece of black stick- 
ing-plaster upon his right cheek. In the duel which followed, 
Desglands severely wounded his rival ; upon which he reduced 
the size of the plaster. When his rival recovered, they had 
another duel ; Desglands drew blood again, and again made his 
plaster a little smaller ; and so on for five or six times. After 
every duel Desglands' plaster grew less and less, until at last his 
rival was killed. 


Almighty not only care for them but judge for them 
too ; when difficult cases were decided by an ordeal, a 
Judgment of God; which, with few exceptions, meant 
a duel, not only where nobles were concerned, but in 
the case of ordinary citizens as welL There is a neat 
illustration of this in Shakespeare's Henry VI. 1 
Every judicial sentence was subject to an appeal to 
arms — a court, as it were, of higher instance, namely, 
the Judgment of God: and this really meant thai- 
physical strength and activity, that is, our animal 
nature, usurped the place of reason on the judgment 
seat, deciding in matters of right and wrong, not by 
what a man had done, but by the force with which 
he was opposed, the same system, in fact, as prevails 
to-day under the principles of knightly honour. If 
any one doubts that such is really the origin of our 
modern duel, let him read an excellent work by J. B. 
Millingen, The History of Duelling. 2 Nay, you may 
still find amongst the supporters of the system, — who, 
by the way, are not usually the most educated or 
thoughtful of men, — some who look upon the result of 
a duel as really constituting a divine judgment in the 
matter in dispute ; no doubt in consequence of the 
traditional feeling on the subject. 

But leaving aside the question of origin, it must 
now be clear to us that the main tendency of the 
principle is to use physical menace for the purpose 
of extorting an appearance of respect which is deemed 
too difficult or superfluous to acquire in reality ; a 
proceeding which comes to much the same thing as if 

1 Part II., Act 2, Sc. 3. 
* Published in 1849. 


you were to prove the warmth of your room by holding 
your hand on the thermometer and so make it rise. 
In fact, the kernel of the matter is this: whereas 
civic honour aims at peaceable intercourse, and con- 
sists in the opinion of other people that we deserve 
full confidence, because we pay unconditional respect 
to their rights, knightly honour, on the other hand, 
lays down that we are to be feared, as being deter- 
mined at all costs to maintain our own. 

As not much reliance can be placed upon human 
integrity, the principle that it is more essential to 
arouse fear than to invite confidence would not, 
perhaps, be a false one, if we were living in a state of 
nature, where every man would have to protect him* 
self and directly maintain his own rights. But in 
civilised life, where the State undertakes the protec- 
tion of our person and property, the principle is no 
longer applicable : it stands, like the castles and 
watch-towers of the age when might was right, a 
useless and forlorn object, amidst well- tilled fields and 
frequented roads, or even railways. 

Accordingly, the application of knightly honour, 
which still recognises this principle, is confined to 
those small cases of personal assault which meet with 
but slight punishment at the hands of the law, or 
even none at all, for de minimis non, — mere trivial 
wrongs, committed sometimes only in jest. The con- 
sequence of this limited application of the principle is 
that it has forced itself into an exaggerated respect 
for the value of the person, — a respect utterly alien to 
the nature, constitution or destiny of man — which it 
has elevated into a species of sanctity : and as it con- 

HONOUR. 101 

siders that the State has imposed a very insufficient 
penalty on the commission of such trivial injuries, it 
takes upon itself to punish them by attacking the 
aggressor in life or limb. The whole thing manifestly 
rests upon an excessive degree of arrogant pride, 
which, completely forgetting what man really is, 
claims that he shall be absolutely free from all attack 
or even censure. Those who determine to carry out 
this principle by main force, and announce, as their 
rule of action, whoever insults or strikes me shall die ! 
ought for their pains to be banished the country. 1 

As a palliative to this rash arrogance, people are 
in the habit of giving way on everything. If two 
intrepid persons meet, and neither will give way, the 

1 Knightly honour is the child of pride and folly, and it is need, 
not pride, which is the heritage of the human race. It is a very 
remarkable fact that this extreme form of pride should be found 
exclusively amongst the adherents of the religion which teaches 
the deepest humility. Still, this pride must not be put down to 
religion, but, rather, to the feudal system, which made every 
nobleman a petty sovereign who recognised no human judge, 
and learned to regard his person as sacred and inviolable, and 
any attack upon it, or any blow or insulting word, as an offence 
punishable by death. The principle of knightly honour and of 
the duel was at first confined to the nobles, and, later on, also to 
officers in the army, who, enjoying a kind of off-and-on relation- 
ship with the upper classes, though they were never incorporated 
with them, were anxious not to be behind them. It is true that 
duels were the product of the old ordeals ; but the latter are not 
the foundation, but rather the consequence and application of 
the principle of honour : the man who recognised no human 
judge appealed to the divine. Ordeals, however, are not pecu- 
liar to Christendom : they may be found in great force among 
the Hindoos, especially of ancient times ; and there are traces of 
them even now. 


slightest difference may cause a shower of abuse, then 
fisticuffs, and, finally, a fatal blow ; so that it would 
really be a more decorous proceeding to omit the 
intermediate steps and appeal to arms at once. An 
appeal to arms has its own special formalities ; and 
these have developed into a rigid and precise system 
of laws and regulations, together forming the most 
solemn farce there is, — a regular temple of honour 
dedicated to folly ! For if two intrepid persons dis- 
pute over some trivial matter, (more important affairs 
are dealt with by law), one of them, the cleverer of the 
two, will of course yield; and they will agree to differ. 
That this is so is proved by the fact that common 
people, — or, rather, the numerous classes of the com- 
munity who do not acknowledge the principle of 
knightly honour, let any dispute run its natural 
course. Amongst these classes homicide is a hundred- 
fold rarer than among those — and they amount, per- 
haps, in all, to hardly one in a thousand, — who pay 
homage to the principle: and even blows are of no 
very frequent occurrence. 

Then it has been said that the manners and tone of 
good society are ultimately based upon this principle 
of honour, which, with its system of duels, is made out 
to be a bulwark against the assaults of savagery and 
rudeness. But Athens, Corinth and Rome could 
assuredly boast of good, nay, excellent society, and 
manners and tone of a high order, without any sup- 
port from the bogey of knightly honour. It is true 
that women did not occupy that prominent place in 
ancient society which they hold now, when conversa- 
tion has taken on a frivolous and trifling character, to 

HONOUR. 103 

the exclusion of that weighty discourse which dis- 
tinguished the ancients. This change has certainly 
contributed a great deal to bring about the tendency, 
which is observable in good society now-a-days, to 
prefer personal courage to the possession of any other 
quality. The fact is that personal courage is really a 
very subordinate virtue, — merely the distinguishing 
mark of a subaltern, — a virtue, indeed, in which we 
are surpassed by the lower animals; or else you would 
^ not hear people say, as brave as a lion. Far from 
being the pillar of society, knightly honour affords a 
sure asylum, in general for dishonesty and wickedness, 
and also for small incivilities, want of consideration 
and unmannerliness. Rude behaviour is often passed 
over in silence because no one cares to risk his neck in 
correcting it. 

After what I have said, it will not appear strange 
that the duelling system is carried to the highest pitch 
of sanguinary zeal precisely in that nation whose 
political and financial records show that they are not 
too honourable. What that nation is like in its 
private and domestic life, is a question which may be 
best put to those who are experienced in the matter. 
Their urbanity and social culture have long been con- 
spicuous by their absence. 

There is no truth, then, in such pretexts. It can 
be urged with more justice that as, when you snarl at 
a dog, he snarls in return, and when you pet him, he 
fawns ; so it lies in the nature of men to return 
hostility by hostility, and to be embittered and irri- 
tated at any signs of depreciatory treatment or hatred: 
and, as Cicero says, there is something so penetrating 


in the shaft of envy that even men of wisdom and worth 
find its wound a painful one; and nowhere in the 
world, except, perhaps, in a few religious sects, is an 
insult or a blow taken with equanimity. And yet a 
natural view of either would in no case demand any- 
thing more than a requital proportionate to the offence, 
and would never go the length of assigning death as 
the proper penalty for anyone who accuses another of 
lying or stupidity or cowardice. The old German 
theory of blood for a blow is a revolting superstition 
of the age of chivahy. And in any case the return 
or requital of an insult is dictated by anger, and not 
by any such obligation of honour and duty as the ad- 
vocates of chivalry seek to attach to it. The fact is 
that, the greater the truth, the greater the slander ; 
and it is clear that the slightest hint of some real 
delinquency will give much greater offence than a 
most terrible accusation which is perfectly baseless : 
so that a man who is quite sure that he has done 
nothing to deserve a reproach may treat it with con- 
tempt, and will be safe in doing so. The theory of 
honour demands that he shall show a susceptibility 
which he does not possess, and take bloody vengeance 
for insults which he cannot feel. A man must him- 
self have but a poor opinion of his own worth who 
hastens to prevent the utterance of an unfavourable 
opinion by giving his enemy a black eye. 

True appreciation of his own value will make a man 
really indifferent to insult ; but if he cannot help resent- 
ing it, a little shrewdness and culture will enable him 
to save appearances and dissemble his anger. If we 
could only get rid of this superstition about honour — 

HONOUR. 10 ° 

the idea, I mean, that it disappears when you ai. in- 
sulted, and can be restored by returning the , msoH 
if we could only stop people from flunking that wrong, 
brntality and insolence can be legalised by expressing 
readiness to give satisfaction, that is, to fight m de- 
fence of it, we should all soon come o the ge-ral 
opinion that insult and depreciation are like a battle in 
which the loser wins ; and that, as Vincenzo Monti says, 
abuse resembles a church-procession, because it always 
returns to the point from which it se out H we 
could only get people to look upon insnl t in this light 
we should no longer have to say something rude in 
order to prove that we are in the right. Now un- 
fortunately, if we want to take a serious view of any 
question, we have first of all to consider ^whether _* 
will not give offence in some way or other to the 
dullard, who generally shows alarm and resentmen at 
the merest sign of intelligence: and i may 
happen that the head which contains the mtelugen 
view has to be pitted against the noddle which is 
empty of everything but narrowness and stupidity. 
If all this were done away with, intellectual superio- 
rity could take the leading place in society which is 
its due-a Place now occupied, though people do not 
like to confess it, by excellence of physique mere 
fitting pluck, in fact; and the natural effect of such 
a°change would be that the best kind of people would 
have one reason the less for withdrawing from society 
This would pave the way for the introduction of real 
courtesy and genuinely good society such as un- 
doubtedly existed in Athens, Corinth and Borne. 
If anyone wants to see a good example of what 


I mean, I should like him to read Xenophon's 

The last argument in defence of knightly honour 
no doubt is, that, but for its existence, the world — 
awful thought ! — would be a regular bear-garden. To 
which I may briefly reply that nine hundred and 
ninety-nine people out of a thousand who do not re- 
cognise the code, have often given and received a blow 
without any fatal consequences ; whereas amongst the 
adherents of the code a blow usually means death to 
one of the parties. But let me examine this argument 
more closely. 

I have often tried to find some tenable or, at any 
rate, plausible basis — other than a merely conventional 
one — some positive reasons, that is to say, for the 
rooted conviction which a portion of mankind enter- 
tains, that a blow is a very dreadful thing ; but I have 
looked for it in vain, either in the animal or in the 
rational side of human nature. A blow is, and always 
will be, a trivial physical injury which one man can 
do to another ; proving, thereby, nothing more than 
his superiority in strength or skill, or that his enemy 
was off his guard. Analysis will carry us no further. 
The same knight who regards a blow from the human 
hand as the greatest of evils, if he gets a ten times 
harder blow from his horse, will give you the assurance, 
as he limps away in suppressed pain, that it is a 
matter of no consequence whatever. So I have come 
to think that it is the human hand which is at the 
bottom of the mischief. And yet in a battle the 
knight may get cuts and thrusts from the same hand, 
and still assure you that his wounds are not worth 

HONOUR. 107 

mentioning. Now, I hear that a blow from the fiat of 
a sword is not by any means so bad as a blow with a 
stick ; and that, a short time ago, cadets were liable to 
be punished by the one but not the other, and that 
the very greatest honour of all is the accolade. This 
is all the psychological or moral basis that I can find ; 
and so there is nothing left me but to pronounce the 
whole thing an antiquated superstition that has taken 
deep root, and one more of the many examples which 
show the force of tradition. My view is confirmed 
by the well-known fact that in China a beating with 
a bamboo is a very frequent punishment for the com- 
mon people, and even for officials of every class ; 
which shows that human nature, even in a highly 
civilized state, does not run in the same groove here 
and in China. 

On the contrary, an unprejudiced view of human 
nature shows that it is just as natural for man to beat 
as it is for savage animals to bite and rend in pieces, 
or for horned beasts to butt or push. Man may be 
said to be the animal that beats. Hence it is re- 
volting to our sense of the fitness of things to hear, as 
we sometimes do, that one man has bitten another ; 
on the other hand, it is a natural and everyday 
occurrence for him to get blows or give them. It is 
intelligible enough that, as we become educated, we 
are glad to dispense with blows by a system of mutual 
restraint. But it is a cruel thing to compel a nation 
or a single class to regard a blow as an awful mis- 
fortune which must have death and murder for its 
consequences. There are too many genuine evils in 
the world to allow of our increasing them by 


imaginary misfortunes, which bring real ones in their 
train ; and yet this is the precise effect of the super- 
stition, which thus proves itself at once stupid and 

It does not seem to me wise of governments and 
legislative bodies to promote any such folly by 
attempting to do away with flogging as a punishment 
in civil or military life. Their idea is that they are 
acting in the interests of humanity ; but, in point of 
fact, they are doing just the opposite; for the abolition 
of flogging will serve only to strengthen this inhuman 
and abominable superstition, to which so many sacri- 
fices have already been made. For all offences, except 
the worst, a beating is the obvious and therefore the 
natural penalty ; and a man who will not listen to 
reason will yield to blows. It seems to me right and 
proper to administer corporal punishment to the man 
who possesses nothing and therefore cannot be fined, 
or cannot be put in prison because his master's interests 
would suffer by the loss of his services. There are 
really no arguments against it ; only mere talk about 
the dignity of man — talk which proceeds, not from 
any clear notions on the subject, but from the per- 
nicious superstition I have been describing. That it 
is a superstition which lies at the bottom of the whole 
business is proved by an almost laughable example. 
Not long ago, in the military discipline of many 
countries, the cat was replaced by the stick. In either 
case the object was to produce physical pain ; but the 
latter method involved no disgrace, and was not 
derogatory to honour. 

By promoting this superstition, the State is playing 

HONOUR. 109 

into the hands of the principle of knightly honour, 
and therefore of the duel ; while at the same time it 
is trying, or at any rate it pretends that it is trying, 
to abolish the duel by legislative enactment. As a 
natural consequence we find that this fragment of the 
theory that might is right, which has come down to 
us from the most savage days of the Middle Age, has 
still in this nineteenth century a good deal of life left 
in it — more shame to us ! It is high time for the 
principle to be driven out bag and baggage. Now-a- 
days, no one is allowed to set dogs or cocks to fight 
each other, — at any rate, in England it is a penal 
offence, — but men are plunged into deadly strife, 
against their will, by the operation of this ridiculous, 
superstitious and absurd principle, which imposes 
upon us the obligation, as its narrow-minded sup- 
porters and advocates declare, of fighting with one 
another like gladiators, for any little trifle. Let me 
recommend our purists to adopt the expression halting} 
instead of duel, which probably comes to us, not from 
the Latin duellum, but from the Spanish duelo, — 
meaning suffering, nuisance, annoyance. 

In any case, we may well laugh at the pedantic 
excess to which this foolish system has been carried 
It is really revolting that this principle, with its absurd 
code, can form a power within the State — imperium 
in imperio — a power too easily put in motion, which, 
recognising no right but might, tyrannises over the 
classes which come within its range, by keeping up a 
sort of inquisition, before which any one may be haled 
on the most flimsy pretext, and there and then be 

1 Ritterhetze. 


tried on an issue of life and death between himself and 
his opponent. This is the lurking place from which 
every rascal, if he only belongs to the classes in ques- 
tion, may menace and even exterminate the noblest and 
best of men, who, as such, must of course be an object 
of hatred to him. Our system of justice and police- 
protection has made it impossible in these days for 
any scoundrel in the street to attack us with — Your 
money or your life ! and common sense ought now to 
be able to prevent rogues disturbing the peaceable 
intercourse of society by coming at us with — Your 
honour or your life ! An end should be put to the 
burden which weighs upon the higher classes — the 
burden, I mean, of having to be ready every moment 
to expose life and limb to the mercy of anyone who 
takes it into his rascally head to be coarse, rude, 
foolish or malicious. It is perfectly atrocious that a 
pair of silly, passionate boys should be wounded, 
maimed or even killed, simply because they have had 
a few words. 

The strength of this tyrannical power within the 
State, and the force of the superstition, may be 
measured by the fact that people who are prevented 
from restoring their knightly honour by the superior 
or inferior rank of their aggressor, or anything else 
that puts the persons on a different level, often come 
to a tragic-comic end by committing suicide in sheer 
despair. You may generally know a thing to be 
false and ridiculous by finding that, if it is carried to 
its logical conclusion, it results in a contradiction ; 
and here, too, we have a very glaring absurdity. For 
an officer is forbidden to take part in a duel ; but if 

HONOUR. 1 i 1 

he is challenged and declines to come out, he is 
punished by being dismissed the service. 

As I am on the matter* let me be more frank still. 
The important distinction, which is often insisted 
upon, between killing your enemy in a fair fight with 
equal weapons, and lying in ambush for him, is 
entirely a corollary pf the fact that the power within 
the State, of which I have spoken, recognises no other 
right than might, that is, the right of the stronger, 
and appeals to a Judgment of God as the basis of the 
whole code. For to kill a man in a fair fio-ht, is to 
prove that you are superior to him in strength or 
skill ; and to justify the deed, you must assume that the 
right of the stronger is recdly a right 

But the truth is that, if my opponent is unable to 
defend himself, it gives me the possibility, but not by 
any means the right, of killing him. The right, the 
moral justification, must depend entirely upon the 
motives which I have for taking his life. Even sup- 
posing that I have sufficient motive for taking a man's 
life, there is no reason why I should make his death 
depend upon whether I can shoot or fence betterlhan 
he. In such a case, it is immaterial in what way I 
kill him, whether I attack him from the front or the 
rear. From a moral point of view, the right of the 
stronger is no more convincing than the right of the 
more skilful ; and it is skill which is employed if you 
murder a man treacherously. Might and skill are in 
this case equally right : in a duel, for instance, both 
the one and the other come into play ; for a feint is 
only another name for treachery. If I consider my- 
self morally justified in taking a ma«'s life, it is stupid 


of me to try first of all whether he can shoot or fence 
better than I ; as, if he can, he will not only have 
wronged me, but have taken my life into the bargain. 

It is Rousseau's opinion that the proper way to 
avenge an insult is, not to fight a duel with your 
aggressor, but to assassinate him, — an opinion, however, 
which he is cautious enough only just to indicate in 
a mysterious note to one of the books of his Emile 
This shows the philosopher so completely under the 
influence of the mediaeval superstition of knightly 
honour that he considers it justifiable to murder a 
man who accuses you of lying • whilst he must have 
known that every man, and himself especially, has 
deserved to have the lie given him times without 

The prejudice which justifies the killing of your 
adversary, so long as it is done in an open contest and 
with equal weapons, obviously looks upon might as 
really right, and a duel as the interference of GocL 
The Italian who, in a fit of rage, falls upon his 
aggressor wherever he finds hira, and despatches him 
without any ceremony, acts, at any rate, consistently 
and naturally : he may be cleverer, but he is not 
worse, than the duellist. If you say, I am justified 
in killing my adversary in a duel, because he is at the 
moment doing his best to kill me, I can reply that it 
is your challenge which has placed him under the 
necessity of defending himself ; and that by mutually 
putting it on the ground of self-defence, the combat- 
ants are seeking a plausible pretext for committing 
murder. I should rather justify the deed by the legal 
maxim Volenti non ,JU iryuria ; because the parties 

HONOUR. 113 

mutually agree to set their life upon the issue. This 
argument may, however, be rebutted by showing that 
the injured party is not injured volens ; because it is 
this tyrannical principle of knightly honour, with its 
absurd code, which forcibly drags one at least of the 
combatants before a bloody inquisition. 

I have been rather prolix on the subject of knightly 
honour, but I had good reasons for being so, because 
the Augean stable of moral and intellectual enormity 
in this world can be cleaned out only with the 
besom of philosophy. There are two things which 
more than all else serve to make the social arrange- 
ments of modern life compare unfavourably with 
those of antiquity, by giving our age a gloomy, dark 
and sinister aspect, from which antiquity, fresh, 
natural and, as it were, in the morning of life, is com- 
pletely free ; I mean modern honour and modern 
disease, — par nobile fratrum ! — which have combined 
to poison all the relations of life, whether public or 
private. The second of this noble pair extends its 
influence much farther than at first appears to be the 
case, as being not merely a physical, but also a moral 
disease. From the time that poisoned arrows have 
been found in Cupid's quiver, an estranging, hostile, 
nay, devilish element has entered into the relations of 
men and women, like a sinister thread of fear and 
mistrust in the warp and woof of their intercourse ; 
indirectly shaking the foundations of human fellow- 
ship, and so more or less affecting the whole tenor of 
existence. But it would be beside my present purpose 
to pursue the subject further. 


An influence analogous to this, though working on 
other lines, is exerted by the principle of knightly 
honour, — that solemn farce, unknown to the ancient 
world, which makes modern society stiff, gloomy and 
timid, forcing us to keep the strictest watch on every 
word that falls. Nor is this all. The principle is a 
universal Minotaur ; and the goodly company of the 
sons of noble houses which it demands in yearly 
tribute, comes, not from one country alone, as of old, 
but from every land in Europe. It is high time to 
make a regular attack upon this foolish system ; and 
this is what I am trying to do now. Would that 
these two monsters of the modern world might dis- 
appear before the end of the century ! 

Let us hope that medicine may be able to find some 
means of preventing the one, and that, by clearing 
our ideas, philosophy may put an end to the other ; 
for it is only by clearing our ideas that the evil can 
be eradicated. Governments have tried to do so by 
legislation, and failed. 

Still, if they are really concerned to suppress the 
duelling system ; and if the small success that has 
attended their efforts is really due only to their in- 
ability to cope with the evil, I do not mind proposing 
a law the success of which I am prepared to guarantee. 
It will involve no sanguinary measures, and can be 
put into operation without recourse either to the 
scaffold or the gallows, or to imprisonment for life. 
It is a small homoeopathic pilule, with no serious 
after-effects. If any man send or accept a challenge, 
let the corporal take him before the guard house, and 
there give him, in broad daylight, twelve strokes with 

HONOUR. 115 

a stick a la Chinoise ; a non-commissioned officer or a 
private to receive six. If a duel has actually taken 
place, the usual criminal proceedings should be 

A person with knightly notions might, perhaps, object 
that, if such a punishment were carried out, a man of 
honour would possibly shoot himself ; to which I 
should answer that it is better for a fool like that to 
shoot himself rather than other people. However, 1 
know very well that governments are not really in 
earnest about putting down duelling. Civil officials, 
and much more so, officers in the army, (except those 
in the highest positions), are paid most inadequately 
for the services they perform ; and the deficiency is 
made up by honour, which is represented by titles 
and orders, and, in general, by the system of rank 
and distinction. The duel is, so to speak, a very 
serviceable extra-horse for people of rank: so they 
are trained in the knowledge of it at the universities. 
The accidents which happen to those who use it make 
up in blood for the deficiency of the pay. 

Just to complete the discussion, let me here men- 
tion the subject of national honour. It is the honour 
of a nation as a unit in the aggregate of nations. 
And as there is no court to appeal to but the court of 
force ; and as every nation must be prepared to 
defend its own interests, the honour of a nation 
consists in establishing the opinion, not only that it 
may be trusted (its credit), but also that it is to be 
feared. An attack upon its rights must never be 


allowed to pass unheeded. It is a combination of 
civic and of knightly honour. 

Section S. — Fame. 

Under the heading of place in the estimation of the 
world we have put Fame; and this we must now 
proceed to consider. 

Fame and honour are twins ; and twins, too, like 
Castor and Pollux, of whom the one was mortal and 
the other was not. Fame is the undying brother of 
ephemeral honour. I speak, of course, of the highest 
kind of fame, that is, of fame in the true and genuine 
sense of the word; for, to be sure, there are many 
sorts of fame, some of which last but a day. Honour 
is concerned merely with such qualities as eve^one 
may be expected to show under similar circumstances ; 
fame only with those which cannot be required 
of any man. Honour is of qualities which everyone 
has a right to attribute to himself; fame only of 
those which should be left to others to attribute. 
Whilst our honour extends as far as people have 
knowledge of us ; fame runs in advance, and makes 
us known wherever it finds its way. Every one 
can make a claim to honour; very few to fame, as 
being attainable only in virtue of extraordinary 

These achievements may be of two kinds, either 
actions or works; and so to fame there are two paths 
open. On the path of actions, a great heart is the 
chief recommendation ; on that of works, a great head. 
Each of the two paths has its own peculiar advantages 

FAME. 117 

and detriments; and the chief difference between 
them is that actions are fleeting, while works remain. 
The influence of an action, be it never so noble, can 
last but a short time ; but a work of genius is a living 
influence, beneficial and ennobling throughout the 
ages. All that can remain of actions is a memory, 
and that becomes weak and disfigured by time — a 
matter of indifference to us, until at last it is extin- 
guished altogether ; unless, indeed, history takes it up, 
and presents it, fossilized, to posterity. Works are 
immortal in themselves, and once committed to writ- 
ing, may live for ever. Of Alexander the Great we 
have but the name and the record : but Plato and 
Aristotle, Homer and Horace are alive, and as directly 
at work to-day as they were in their own life-time. 
The Vedas, and their Upanishads, are still with us ; 
but of all contemporaneous actions not a trace has 
come down to us. 1 

1 Accordingly it is a poor compliment, though sometimes a 
fashionable one, to try to pay honour to a work by calling it an 
action. For a work is something essentially higher in its nature. 
An action is always something based on motive, and, therefore, 
fragmentary and fleeting — a part, in fact, of that Will which is 
the universal and original element in the constitution of the 
world. But a great and beautiful work has a permanent char- 
acter, as being of universal significance, and sprung from the 
Intellect, which rises, like a perfume, above the faults and follies 
of the world of Will. 

The fame of a great action has this advantage, that it gene- 
rally starts with a loud explosion, so loud, indeed, as to be 
heard all over Europe, whereas the fame of a great work is slow 
and gradual in its beginnings ; the noise it makes is at first slight, 
but it goes on growing greater, until at last, after a hundred 
years perhaps, it attains its full force ; but then it remains, 


Another disadvantage under which actions labour is 
that they depend upon chance for the possibility of 
coming into existence ; and hence, the fame they win 
does not flow entirely from their intrinsic value, but 
also from the circumstances which happened to lend 
them importance and lustre. Again, the fame of 
actions, if, as in war, they are purely personal, depends 
upon the testimony of fewer witnesses ; and these are 
not always present, and even if present, are not always 
just or unbiassed observers. This disadvantage, how- 
ever, is counterbalanced by the fact that actions have 
the advantage of being of a practical character, and, 
therefore, within the range of general human intelli- 
gence; so that when the facts have been correctly re- 
ported, justice is immediately done ; unless, indeed, the 
motive underlying the action is not at first properly 
understood or appreciated. No action can be really 
understood apart from the motive which prompted it. 

It is just the contrary with works. Their inception 
does not depend upon chance, but wholly and entirely 
upon their author; and whatever they are in and for 
themselves, that they remain as long as they live. 
Further, there is a difficulty in properly judging them, 
which becomes all the harder, the higher their character; 
often there are no persons competent to understand 
the work, and often no unbiassed or honest critics. 
Their fame, however, does not depend upon one judge 

because the works remain, for thousands of years. But in the 
other case, when the first explosion is over, the noise it makes 
grows less and less, and is heard by fewer and fewer persons ; 
until it ends by the action having only a shadowy existence in 
the pages of history. 

FAME. 119 

only; they can enter an appeal to another. In the 
case of actions, as I have said, it is only their memory 
which comes down to posterity, and then only in the 
traditional form ; but works are handed down them- 
selves, and, except when parts of them have been lost, 
in the form in which they first appeared. In this 
ca<e there is no room for any disfigurement of the 
i'acos; and any circumstances which may have preju- 
diced them in their origin, fall away with the lapse of 
time. Nay, it is often only after the lapse of time 
that the persons really competent to judge them ap- 
pear — exceptional critics sitting in judgment on ex- 
ceptional works, and giving their weighty verdicts in 
succession. These collectively form a perfectly just 
appreciation ; and though there are cases where it has 
taken some hundreds of years to form it, no further 
lapse of time is able to reverse the verdict ; — so secure 
and inevitable is the fame of a great work. 

Whether authors ever live to see the dawn of their 
fame depends upon the chance of circumstance ; and 
the higher and more important their works are, the 
less likelihood there is of their doing so. That was an 
incomparably fine saying of Seneca's, that fame follows 
merit as surely as the body casts a shadow ; sometimes 
falling in front, and sometimes behind. And he goes 
on to remark that though the envy of contemporaries 
be shoivn by universal silence, there will come those who 
will judge without enmity or favour. From this re- 
mark it is manifest that even in Seneca's age there 
were rascals who understood the art of suppressing 
, merit by maliciously ignoring its existence, and of 
concealing good work from the public in order to 


favour the bad. It is an art well understood in our 
day, too, manifesting itself, both then and now, in an 
envious conspiracy of silence. 

As a general rule, the longer a man's fame is likely 
to last, the later it will be in coming ; for all excellent 
products require time for their development. The 
fame which lasts to posterity is like an oak, of very 
slow growth ; and that which endures but a little 
while, like plants which spring up in a year and then 
die ; whilst false fame is like a fungus, shooting up in 
a night and perishing as soon. 

And why ? For this reason : the more a man 
belongs to posterity, in other words, to humanity in 
general, the more of an alien he is to his contem- 
poraries; since his work is not meant for them as 
such, but only for them in so far as they form part of 
mankind at large ; there is none of that familiar local 
colour about his productions which would appeal to 
them; and so what he does, fails of recognition because 
it is strange. People are more likely to appreciate 
the man who serves the circumstances of his own brief 
hour, or the temper of the moment, — belonging to it, 
and living and dying with it. 

The general history of art and literature shows that 
the highest achievements of the human mind are, as a 
rule, not favourably received at first ; but remain in 
obscurity until they win notice from intelligence of a 
higher order, by whose influence they are brought 
into a position which they then maintain, in virtue of 
the authority thus given them. 

If the reason of this should be asked, it will be 
found that ultimately, a man can really understand 

FAME. 121 

and appreciate those things only which are of like 
nature with himself. The dull person will like what 
is dull, and the common person what is common ; a 
man whose ideas are mixed will be attracted by con - 
fusion of thought ; and folly will appeal to him who 
has no brains at all; but best of all, a man will like 
his own works, as being of a character thoroughly at 
one with himself. This is a truth as old as Epichar- 
mus of fabulous memory — 

OavfMKJTov ovSev kcni /xe ravO' ovto> Aeyeiv 
Kcu avBdvetv avTolcrtv avTOvs, kcll SokgTv 

KciAoJS 7T€(fiVK€VaL' KOU yap 6 KViOV KVVl 

KciAAmttoi/ eTfxev <f>div€Tai, kcu fSovs fiot 

"OvOS C*' OV(£> KaXXtCTTOV [tCTTtv], V<$ 8' vt. 

The sense of this passage — for it should not be lost — 
is that we should not be surprised if people are pleased 
with themselves, and fancy that they are in good case; 
for to a dog the best thing in the world is a dog ; to 
an ox, an ox ; to an ass, an ass ; and to a sow, a sow. 

The strongest arm is unavailing to give impetus to 
a feather-weight ; for, instead of speeding on its way 
and hitting its mark with effect, it will soon fall to the 
ground, having expended what little energy was given 
to it, and possessing no mass of its own to be the 
vehicle of momentum. So it is with great and noble 
thoughts, nay, with the very masterpieces of genius, 
when there are none but little, weak, and perverse 
minds to appreciate them, — a fact which has been 
deplored by a chorus of the wise in all ages. Jesus, 
the son of Sirach, for instance, declares that He that 


telleth a tale to a fool speaketh to one in slumber: 
when he hath told his tale, he will say, What is the 
matter ? l And Hamlet says, A knavish speech sleeps 
in a fool's ear. 2 And Goethe is of the same opinion, 
that a dull ear mocks at the wisest word, 

i Das gliichlichste fVort es wird vcrhb'hnt, 

Wenn der Rarer ein Schiefotvr ist: 

and again, that we should not be discouraged if people 
are stupid, for you can make no rings if you throw 
your stone into a marsh : — 

Du wirhest nicht, Alles bleibt so dmnpf: 

Sei guter Dinge I 
Der Stein in Sumpf 

Macht keine Binge. 

Liohtenberg asks : When a head and a book come 
into collision, and one sounds hollow, is it always the 
book ? And in another place : Works like this are as 
a mirror ; if an ass looks in, you cannot expect an 
apostle to look out. "We should do well to remember 
old Gellert's fine and touching lament, that the best 
gifts of all find the fewest admirers, and that most 
men mistake the bad for the good, — a daily evil that 
nothing can prevent, like a plague which no remedy 
can cure. There is but one thing to be done, though 
how difficult ! — the foolish must become wise, — and 
that they can never be. The value of life they never 
know ; they see with the outer eye but never with 

1 Ecclesiasticus, xxii., 8. 

2 Act iv. , sc. 2. 



the mind, and praise the trivial because the good is 
strange to them : — 

Nie kennen sie den Werth der Dinge, 
Ihr Auge schliesst, nicht ihr Verstand ; 

Sie loben ewig das Geringe 

Weil sie das nie gekannt. 

To the intellectual incapacity which, as Goethe 
says, fails to recognize and appreciate the good which 
exists, must be added something which comes into 
play everywhere, the moral baseness of mankind, 
here taking the form of envy. The new fame that a 
man wins raises him afresh over the heads of his 
fellows, who are thus degraded in proportion. All 
conspicuous merit is obtained at the cost of those who 
possess none ; or, as Goethe has it in the West Ostlicher 
Divan, another's praise is one's own depreciation— 

Wenn wir Andern Ehre geben 
Miissen toir uns selbst entadeln. 

We see, then, how it is that, whatever be the form 
which excellence takes, mediocrity, the common lot of 
by far the greatest number, is leagued against it in a 
conspiracy to resist, and if possible, to suppress it. 
The pass-word of this league is A bas le merite. Nay 
more; those who have done something themselves, 
and enjoy a certain amount of fame, do not care about 
the appearance of a new reputation, because its 
success is apt to throw theirs into the shade. Hence, 
Goethe declares that if we had to depend for our life 
upon the favour of others, we should never have 




lived at all; from their desire to appear important 
themselves, people gladly ignore our very existence : — 

Hcitte ich gezaudert zu werden, 
Bis man mii J s Leben gegonnt, 
Ich ware noch nicht auf Erden, 
Wie ihr begreifen kb'nnt, 
Wenn ihr seht, wie sie sich geberden, 
Die, wn etwas zu scheinen, 
Mich geme mdchten verneinen. 

Honour, on the contrary, generally meets with fair 
appreciation, and is not exposed to the onslaught of 
envy ; nay, every man is credited with the possession 
of it until the contrary is proved. But fame has to 
be won in despite of envy, and the tribunal whicli 
awards the laurel is composed of judges biassed 
against the applicant from the very first. Honour is 
something which we are able and ready to share with 
everyone ; fame suffers encroachment and is rendered 
more unattainable in proportion as more people come 
by it. Further, the difficulty of winning fame by any 
given work stands in inverse ratio to the number of 
people who are likely to read it ; and hence it is 
so much harder to become famous as the author of a 
learned work than as a writer who aspires only to 
amuse. It is hardest of all in the case of philoso- 
phical works, because the result at which they aim is 
rather vague, and, at the same time, useless from a 
material point of view. They appeal chiefly to readers 
who are working on the same lines themselves. 

It is clear, then, from what I have said as to the 
difficulty of winning fame, that those who labour, not 
out of love for their subject, nor from pleasure in 

FAME. 125 

pursuing it, but under the stimulus of ambition, rarely 
or never leave mankind a legacy of immortal works. 
The man who seeks to do what is good and genuine, 
must avoid what is bad, and be ready to defy the 
opinions of the mob, nay, even to despise it and its 
misleaders. Hence the truth of the remark, (especi- 
ally insisted upon byOsorius de Gloria), that fame shuns 
those who seek it, and seeks those who shun it ; for 
the one adapt themselves to the taste of their con- 
temporaries, and the others work in defiance of it. 

But, difficult though it be to acquire fame, it is an 
easy thing to keep it when once acquired. Here, 
again, fame is in direct opposition to honour, with 
which everyone is presumably to be accredited. 
Honour has not to be won; it must only not be lost. 
But there lies the difficulty ! For by a single un- 
worthy action, it is gone irretrievably. But fame, in 
the proper sense of the word, can never disappear ; 
for the action or w T ork by which it was acquired can 
never be undone ; and fame attaches to its author, 
even though he does nothing to deserve it anew. The 
fame which vanishes, or is outlived, proves itself 
thereby to have been spurious, in other words, un- 
merited, and due to a momentary over-estimate of a 
man's work ; not to speak of the kind of fame which 
Hegel enjoyed, and which Lichtenberg describes as 
trumpeted forth by a clique of admiring under- 
graduates — the resounding echo of empty heads; — 
such a fame as will make posterity smile when it lights 
upon a grotesque architecture of words, a fine nest 
with the birds long ago flown ; it will knock at the 
door of this decayed structure of conventionalities 


and find it utterly empty! — not even a trace oj 
thought there to invite the passer-by. 

The truth is that fame means nothing but what a 
man is in comparison with others. It is essentially 
relative in character, and therefore onty indirectly 
valuable; for it vanishes the moment other people 
become what the famous man is. Absolute value can 
be predicated only of what a man possesses under any 
and all circumstances, — here, what a man is directly 
and in himself. It is the possession of a great heart or a 
great head, and not the mere fame of it, which is 
worth having, and conducive to happiness. Not 
fame, but that which deserves to be famous, is what 
a man should hold in esteem. This is, as it were, the 
true underlying substance, and fame is only an acci- 
dent, affecting its subject chiefly as a kind of external 
symptom, which serves to confirm his own opinion of 
himself. Light is not visible unless it meets witb 
something to reflect it ; and talent is sure of itself 
only when its fame is noised abroad. But fame is not 
a certain symptom of merit ; because you can have 
the one without the other ; or, as Lessing nicely puts 
it, Some people obtain fame, and others deserve it. 

It would be a miserable existence which should 
make its value or want of value depend upon what 
other people think ; but such would be the life of a 
hero or a genius if its worth consisted in fame, that 
is, in the applause of the world. Every man lives 
and exists on his own account, and, therefore, mainly 
in and for himself; and what he is and the whole 
manner of his being concern himself more than any- 
one else; so if he is not worth much in this respect, 

FAME. 127 

he cannot be worth much otherwise. The idea which 
other people form of his existence is something 
secondary, derivative, exposed to all the chances of 
fate, and in the end affecting him but very indirectly. 
Besides, other people's heads are a wretched place to 
be the home of a man's true happiness — a fanciful 
happiness perhaps, but not a real one. 

And what a mixed company inhabits the Temple 
of Universal Fame ! — generals, ministers, charlatans, 
jugglers, dancers, singers, millionaires and Jews ! It 
is a temple in which more sincere recognition, more 
genuine esteem, is given to the several excellences of 
such folk, than to superiority of mind, even of a high 
order, which obtains from the great majority only a 
verbal acknowledgment. 

From the point of view of human happiness, fame 
is, surely, nothing but a very rare and delicate morsel 
for the appetite that feeds on pride and vanity — an 
appetite which, however carefully concealed, exists to 
an immoderate degree in every man, and is, perhaps, 
strongest of all in those who set their hearts on be- 
coming famous at any cost. Such people generally 
have to wait some time in uncertainty as to their own 
value, before the opportunity comes which will put it 
to the proof and let other people see what they are 
made of; but until then, they feel as if they were 
suffering secret injustice. 1 

But, as I explained at the beginning of this chapter, 

1 Our greatest pleasure consists in being admired ; but those 
who admire us, even if they have every reason to do so, are slow 
to express their sentiments. Hence he is the happiest man 
who, no matter how, manages sincerely to admire himself — so 
long as other people leave him alone. 


an unreasonable value is set upon other people's 
opinion, and one quite disproportionate to its real 
worth. Hobbes has some strong remarks on this sub- 
ject; and no doubt he is quite right. Mental pleasure, 
he writes, and ecstasy of any kind, arise when, on com- 
paring ourselves with others, ive come to the conclusion 
that we may think well of ourselves. So we can easily 
understand the great value which is always attached 
to fame, as worth any sacrifices if there is the slightest 
hope of attaining it. 

Fame is the spur that the clear spirit doth raise 

(That last infirmity of noble mind) 

To scorn delights and live laborious days. x 

And again : 

How hard it is to climb 
The heights where Fame's proud temple sh ines afar ! 

We can thus understand how it is that the vainest 
people in the world are always talking about la gloire, 
with the most implicit faith in it as a stimulus to 
great actions and great works. But there can be no 
doubt that fame is something secondary in its char- 
acter, a mere echo or reflection — as it were, a shadow 
or symptom — of merit; and, in any case, what excites 
admiration must be of more value than the admiration 
itself. The truth is that a man is made happy, not 
by fame, but by that which brings him fame, by his 
merits, or to speak more correctly, by the disposition 
and capacity from which his merits proceed, whether 
they be moral or intellectual. The best side of a 

1 Milton. Lycidas 

FAME. 129 

man'-* nature must of necessity be more important for 
him than for anyone else : the reflection of it, the 
opinion which exists in the heads of others, is a matter 
that can affect him only in a very subordinate degree. 
He who deserves fame without getting it possesses by 
far the more important element of happiness, which 
should console him for tbe loss of the other. It is not 
that a man is thought to be great by masses of in- 
competent and often infatuated people, but that he 
really is great, which should move us to envy his 
position ; and his happiness lies, not in the fact that 
posterity will hear of him, but that he is the creator 
of thoughts worthy to be treasured up and studied 
for hundreds of years. 

Besides, if a man has done this, he possesses some- 
thing which cannot be wrested from him; and, unlike 
fame, it is a possession dependent entirely upon 
himself. If admiration were his chief aim, there 
would be nothing in him to admire. This is just 
what happens in the case of false, that is, unmerited, 
fame ; for its recipient lives upon it without actually 
possessing the solid substratum of which fame is the 
outward and visible sign. False fame must often put 
its possessor out of conceit with himself ; for the 
time may come when, in spite of the illusions born of 
self-love, he will feel giddy on the heights which he 
was never meant to climb, or look upon himself as 
spurious coin; and in the anguish of threatened 
discovery and well-merited degradation, he will read 
the sentence of posterity on the foreheads of the wise 
— like a man who owes his property to a forged will. 

The truest fame, the fame that comes after death. 



is never heard of by its recipient ; and yet he ig 
called a happy man. His happiness lay both in the 
possession of those great qualities which won him 
fame, and in the opportunity that was granted him 
of developing them — the leisure he had to act as he 
pleased, to dedicate himself to his favourite pursuits. 
It is only work done from the heart that ever gains 
the laurel. 

Greatness of soul, or wealth of intellect, is what 
makes a man happy — intellect, such as, when stamped 
on its productions, will receive the admiration of cen- 
turies to come, — thoughts which made him happy at 
the time, and will in their tarn be a source of study 
and delight to the noblest minds of the most remote 
posterity. The value of posthumous fame lies in 
deserving it ; and this is its own reward. Whether 
works destined to fame attain it in the lifetime of 
their author is a chance affair, of no very great im- 
portance. For the average man has no critical power 
of his own, and is absolutely incapable of appreciating 
the difficulty of a great work. People are always 
swayed by authority ; and where fame is widespread, 
it means that ninety -nine out of a hundred take it 
on faith alone. If a man is famed far and wide in 
his own life-time, he will, if he is wise, not set too 
much value upon it, because it is no more than the 
echo of a few voices, which the chance of a day has 
touched in his favour. 

Would a musician feel flattered by the loud ap- 
plause of an audience if he knew that they were 
nearly all dgaf, and that, to conceal their infirmity, 
they set to work to clap vigorously as soon as ever 

FAME. 131 

they saw one or two persons applauding ? And what 
would he say if he got to know that those one or two 
persons had often taken bribes to secure the loudest 
applause for the poorest player ! 

It is easy to see why contemporary praise so 
seldom developes into posthumous fame. D'Alembert, 
in an extremely fine description of the temple of 
literary fame, remarks that the sanctuary of the 
temple is inhabited by the great dead, who during 
their life had no place there, and by a very few living 
persons, who are nearly all ejected on their death. 
Let me remark, in passing, that to erect a monument 
to a man in his lifetime is as much as declaring that 
posterity is not to be trusted in its judgment of him* 
If a man does happen to see his own true fame, it can 
very rarely be before he is old, though there have 
been artists and musicians who have been exceptions 
to this rule, but very few philosophers. This is 
confirmed by the portraits of people celebrated by 
their works ; for most of them are taken only after 
their subjects have attained celebrity, generally de- 
picting them as old and grey ; more especially if 
philosophy has been the work of their lives. From a 
eudsemonistic standpoint, this is a very proper 
arrangement ; as fame and youth are too much for a 
mortal at one and the same time. Life is such a 
poor business that the strictest economy must be 
exercised in its good things. Youth has enough and 
to spare in itself, and must rest content with what it 
has. But when the delights and joys of life fall away 
in old age, as the leaves from a tree in autumn, fame 
buds forth opportunely, like a plant that is green in 


winter. Fame is, as it were, the fruit that must grow 
all the summer before it can be enjoyed at Yule. 
There is no greater consolation in age than the feeling 
of having put the whole force of one's youth into 
works which still remain young. 

Finally, let us examine a little more closely the 
kinds of fame which attach to various intellectual 
pursuits ; for it is with fame of this sort that my re- 
marks are more immediately concerned. 

I think it may be said broadly that the intellectual 
superiority it denotes consists in forming theories, 
that is, new combinations of certain facts. These 
facts may be of very different kinds ; but the better 
they are known, and the more they come within 
everyday experience, the greater and wider will be 
the fame which is to be won by theorising about them. 
For instance, if the facts in question are numbers or 
lines or special branches of science, such as physics, 
zoology, botany, anatomy, or corrupt passages in 
ancient authors, or undecipherable inscriptions, written, 
it may be, in some unknown alphabet, or obscure points 
in history ; the kind of fame which may be obtained 
by correctly manipulating such facts will not extend 
much beyond those who make a study of them — a 
small number of persons, most of whom live retired 
lives and are envious of others who become famous in 
their special branch of knowledge. 

But if the facts be such as are known to everyone, 
for example, the fundamental characteristics of the 
liuman mind or the human heart, which are shared by 
all alike, or the great physical agencies which are 
constantly in operation before our eyes, or the general 

FAME. 133 

course of natural laws, the kind of fame which is to 
be won by spreading the light of a new and mani- 
festly true theory in regard to them, is such as in time 
will extend almost all over the civilised world : for if 
the facts be such as everyone can grasp, the theory 
also will be generally intelligible. But the extent of 
the fame will depend upon the difficulties overcome ; 
and the more generally known the facts are, the harder 
it will be to form a theory that shall be both new and 
true; because a great many heads will have been 
occupied with them, and there will be little or no possi- 
bility of saying anything that has not been said before. 
On the other hand, facts which are not accessible to 
everybody, and can be got at only after much diffi- 
culty and labour, nearly always admit of new combi- 
nations and theories; so that, if sound understanding 
and judgment are brought to bear upon them — quali- 
ties which do not involve very higli intellectual power 
— a man may easily be so fortunate as to light upon 
some new theory in regard to them which shall be 
also true. But fame won on such paths does not ex- 
tend much beyond those who possess a knowledge of 
the facts in question. To solve problems of this sort 
requires, no doubt, a great deal of study and labour, 
if only to get at the facts ; whilst on the path where 
the greatest and most widespread fame is to be won, 
the facts may be grasped without any labour at all. 
But just in proportion as less labour is necessary, more 
talent or genius is required ; and between such quali- 
ties and the drudgery of research no comparison is 
possible, in respect either of their intrinsic value, or of 
the estimation in which they are held. 


And so people who feel that they possess solid in- 
tellectual capacity and a sound judgment, and yet 
cannot claim the highest mental powers, should not 
be afraid of laborious study ; for by its aid they may 
work themselves above the great mob of humanity 
who have the facts constantly before their eyes, and 
reach those secluded spots which are accessible to 
learned toil. For this is a sphere where there are 
infinitely fewer rivals, and a man of only moderate 
capacity may soon find an opportunity of proclaiming 
a theory that shall be both new and true ; nay, the 
merit of his discovery will partly rest upon the diffi- 
culty of coming at the facts. But applause from one's 
fellow-students, who are the only persons with a 
knowledge of the subject, sounds very faint to the 
far-off multitude. And if we follow up this sort of 
fame far enough, we shall at last come to a point 
where facts very difficult to get at are in themselves 
sufficient to lay a foundation of fame, without any 
necessity for forming a theory ; — travels, for instance, 
in remote and little-known countries, which make a 
man famous by what he has seen, not by what he has 
thought. The great advantage of this kind of fame 
is that to relate what one has seen, is much easier 
than to impart one's thoughts, and people are apt to 
understand descriptions better than ideas, reading 
the one more readily than the other ; for, as Asmus 

When one goes forth a-voyaging 
He has a tale to tell. 

And yet, for all that, a personal acquaintance with 

FAME. 135 

celebrated travellers often reminds us of a line from 
Horace — new scenes do not always mean new ideas — 

Coelum non animum mutant qui trans mare currunt. 1 

But if a man finds himself in possession of great 
mental faculties, such as alone should venture on the 
solution of the hardest of all problems — those which 
concern nature as a whole and humanity in its widest 
range, he will do well to extend his view equally in 
all directions, without ever straying too far amid the 
intricacies of various by-paths, or invading regions 
little known ; in other words, without occupying him- 
self with special branches of knowledge, to say nothing 
of their petty details. There is no necessity for him 
to seek out subjects difficult of access, in order to 
escape a crowd of rivals ; the common objects of life 
will give him material for new theories at once serious 
and true ; and the service he renders will be appreci- 
ated by all those — and they form a great part of man- 
kind — who know the facts of which he treats. What 
a vast distinction there is between students of physics, 
chemistry, anatomy, mineralogy, zoology, philology, 
history, and the men who deal with the great facts of 
human life, the poet and the philosopher ! 
1 Epist. I. II. 


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